SPEAKERS CONTENTS INSERTS
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THE FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION'S CAPACITY BENCHMARKS
TRANSPORTATION AND INFRASTRUCTURE
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HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED SEVENTH CONGRESS
APRIL 25, 2001
Printed for the use of the
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
COMMITTEE ON TRANSPORTATION AND INFRASTRUCTURE
DON YOUNG, Alaska, Chairman
THOMAS E. PETRI, Wisconsin, Vice-Chair
SHERWOOD L. BOEHLERT, New York
HOWARD COBLE, North Carolina
JOHN J. DUNCAN, Jr., Tennessee
WAYNE T. GILCHREST, Maryland
STEPHEN HORN, California
Page 3 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCJOHN L. MICA, Florida
JACK QUINN, New York
VERNON J. EHLERS, Michigan
SPENCER BACHUS, Alabama
STEVEN C. LaTOURETTE, Ohio
SUE W. KELLY, New York
RICHARD H. BAKER, Louisiana
ROBERT W. NEY, Ohio
JOHN COOKSEY, Louisiana
JOHN R. THUNE, South Dakota
FRANK A. LoBIONDO, New Jersey
JERRY MORAN, Kansas
RICHARD W. POMBO, California
JIM DeMINT, South Carolina
DOUG BEREUTER, Nebraska
MICHAEL K. SIMPSON, Idaho
JOHNNY ISAKSON, Georgia
ROBIN HAYES, North Carolina
ROB SIMMONS, Connecticut
MIKE ROGERS, Michigan
SHELLEY MOORE CAPITO, West Virginia
MARK STEVEN KIRK, Illinois
HENRY E, BROWN, Jr., South Carolina
TIMOTHY V. JOHNSON, Illinois
BRIAN D. KERNS, Indiana
Page 4 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCDENNIS R. REHBERG, Montana
TODD RUSSELL PLATTS, Pennsylvania
MIKE FERGUSON, New Jersey
SAM GRAVES, Missouri
C.L. (BUTCH) OTTER, Idaho
MARK R. KENNEDY, Minnesota
JOHN ABNEY CULBERSON, Texas
BILL SHUSTER, Pennsylvania
JOHN BOOZMAN, Arkansas
JAMES L. OBERSTAR, Minnesota
NICK J. RAHALL II, West Virginia
ROBERT A. BORSKI, Pennsylvania
WILLIAM O. LIPINSKI, Illinois
PETER A. DeFAZIO, Oregon
BOB CLEMENT, Tennessee
JERRY F. COSTELLO, Illinois
ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON, District of Columbia
JERROLD NADLER, New York
ROBERT MENENDEZ, New Jersey
CORRINE BROWN, Florida
JAMES A. BARCIA, Michigan
BOB FILNER, California
EDDIE BERNICE JOHNSON, Texas
FRANK MASCARA, Pennsylvania
Page 5 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCGENE TAYLOR, Mississippi
JUANITA MILLENDER-McDONALD, California
ELIJAH E. CUMMINGS, Maryland
EARL BLUMENAUER, Oregon
MAX SANDLIN, Texas
ELLEN O. TAUSCHER, California
BILL PASCRELL, JR., New Jersey
LEONARD L. BOSWELL, Iowa
JAMES P. McGOVERN, Massachusetts
TIM HOLDEN, Pennsylvania
NICK LAMPSON, Texas
JOHN ELIAS BALDACCI, Maine
MARION BERRY, Arkansas
BRIAN BAIRD, Washington
SHELLEY BERKLEY, Nevada
BRAD CARSON, Oklahoma
JIM MATHESON, Utah
MICHAEL M. HONDA, California
RICK LARSEN, Washington
SUBCOMMITTEE ON AVIATION
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JOHN L. MICA, Florida, Chairman
THOMAS E. PETRI, Wisconsin
JOHN J. DUNCAN, Jr., Tennessee
STEPHEN HORN, California
JACK QUINN, New York
VERNON J. EHLERS, Michigan
SPENCER BACHUS, Alabama
SUE W. KELLY, New York
RICHARD H. BAKER, Louisiana
JOHN COOKSEY, Louisiana, Vice Chairman
JOHN R. THUNE, South Dakota
FRANK A. LoBIONDO, New Jersey
JERRY MORAN, Kansas
MICHAEL K. SIMPSON, Idaho
JOHNNY ISAKSON, Georgia
ROBIN HAYES, North Carolina
MARK STEVEN KIRK, Illinois
TIMOTHY V. JOHNSON, Illinois
DENNIS R. REHBERG, Montana
SAM GRAVES, Missouri
MARK R. KENNEDY, Minnesota
JOHN ABNEY CULBERSON, Texas
BUD SHUSTER, Pennsylvania
Page 7 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCJOHN BOOZMAN, Arkansas
DON YOUNG, Alaska
WILLIAM O. LIPINSKI, Illinois
ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON, District of Columbia
EDDIE BERNICE JOHNSON, Texas
LEONARD L. BOSWELL, Iowa
JOHN ELIAS BALDACCI, Maine
PETER A. DeFAZIO, Oregon
JERRY F. COSTELLO, Illinois
ROBERT MENENDEZ, New Jersey
CORRINE BROWN, Florida
JUANITA MILLENDER-McDONALD, California
MAX SANDLIN, Texas
ELLEN O. TAUSCHER, California
BILL PASCRELL, JR., New Jersey
TIM HOLDEN, Pennsylvania
NICK LAMPSON, Texas
SHELLEY BERKLEY, Nevada
BRAD CARSON, Oklahoma
JIM MATHESON, Utah
MICHAEL M. HONDA, California
NICK J. RAHALL II, West Virginia
Page 8 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCJAMES L. OBERSTAR, Minnesota
Coyne, Hon. James K., President, National Air Transportation Association
Garvey, Hon. Jane F., Administrator, Federal Aviation Administration
Kinton, Thomas J., Director of Aviation, Massachusetts Port Authority
Plavin, David Z., President, Airports Council International-North America, and on behalf of the American Association of Airport Executives
Ryan, Jack R., Acting Senior Vice President, Aviation Safety and Operations, Air Transport Association of America
PREPARED STATEMENTS SUBMITTED BY MEMBERS OF CONGRESS
Costello, Hon. Jerry F., of Illinois
Oberstar, Hon. James L., of Minnesota
PREPARED STATEMENTS SUBMITTED BY WITNESSES
Page 9 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Coyne, Hon. James K
Garvey, Hon. Jane F
Kinton, Thomas J
Plavin, David Z
Ryan, Jack R
SUBMISSION FOR THE RECORD
Airport Capacity Benchmark Report 2001, Federal Aviation Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation
THE FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION'S CAPACITY BENCHMARKS
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 25, 2001
House of Representatives, Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Subcommittee on Aviation, Washington, D. C.
The subcommittee met, pursuant to call, at 2:00 p.m. in room 2167, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. John L. Mica [chairman of the subcommittee] presiding.
Mr. MICA. I would like to call this hearing of the House Transportation Subcommittee on Aviation to order. We will proceed with the order of business today.
Page 10 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC This afternoon on our hearing relating to FAA capacity benchmarks the order of business will be first opening statements.
I will begin the proceedings with my opening statement and then recognize our ranking member, Mr. Lipinski and other Members.
Today's hearing will provide us with our first look at the Federal Aviation Agency's much anticipated runway capacity benchmarks, which were released this morning. I am not sure if other Members have seen this, but I want to make certain that we have copies available for everyone.
Unfortunately, the airport capacity benchmark report that we received today confirms some of our worst suspicions and acknowledges, in fact, what most air travelers have already experienced. Many of our major airports are at or near capacity and measures to deal with the current and looming crisis must be instituted.
Today's report in fact will send chills down the spine of even our most seasoned air travelers because we find that we have delays at seven of our nation's top airports and we find that those delays may become even worse over the next ten years.
Last year was already the worst on record for delays. Airlines responded by adding a few minutes to their scheduled flight times to improve their on-time performance and help manage passenger expectations. But unfortunately, that is not an efficient solution to deal with this growing crisis.
The lack of runway capacity at our major airports is one of the main culprits in creating air traffic delays. According to FAA data, 27 major airports in the U.S. are seriously congested. During the first nine months of 2000 alone, one in every four flights was delayed, canceled or diverted, affecting 119 million passengers.
Official analysis indicates that delays in 2000 cost the airlines an estimated $6.5 billion, up from $5.4 billion in 1999. Due to the complex schedules and extensive hub and spoke operations, a few minutes of delay at one airport can create gridlock across our entire aviation system with dramatic negative impacts on our economy.
Page 11 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Over-capacity problems at even one major airport can spell schedule disasters nationwide. A weather or labor slowdown can further grind the system to a halt, as we have seen.
As we experienced last summer, record delays at La Guardia tied up our air traffic control system and created traffic snarls at almost every major airport. According to FAA data, the lack of runway capacity at our major airports is one of the main culprits in creating air traffic delays.
Again, according to FAA data, 27 major airports in the U.S. are considered seriously congested. If improvements are not made, that number will go to 31 by the year 2007. The last ten years, while air traffic has increased 37 percent, airport runway capacity has increased only by one percent. Only six of our nation's largest airports managed to complete new runway projects during that decade.
FAA began its efforts of establishing benchmarks to get a more clear understanding of airport runway capacity issues throughout the nation. This benchmark report examined 31 of our most heavily used airports. For each airport, FAA calculated an optimum substantial number of flights per hour under ideal conditions and reduced the number of operations per hour based on the most common bad weather configuration.
Whenever appropriate, FAA developed additional benchmarks that considered planned airport capacity improvements, new air traffic controller technologies and improved air traffic controller procedures.
While this analysis is instructive, these benchmarks only paint a partial picture. Runway capacity is in fact a very complex issue. There are many people who are unhappy that these benchmarks even exist. There is also concern about how these benchmark capacity figures will be used.
However, these benchmarks are an important starting point in beginning to reduce delays. This report confirms the simple fact that the demand for air travel often exceeds runway capacity at our busiest airports.
Page 12 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Now, we must reach consensus on a solution to our delay problems. Unfortunately, we have a limited number of options. In the long term, we have several ways to increase overall aviation capacity: First, through construction of new runways; second, by the adoption of new air traffic control procedures; and third, by development and deployment of new technologies.
Unfortunately, all of the remedies that we have at hand or look to in the future will take time. In the short term, however, we must institute actions that will help reduce delays through better scheduling and demand management.
Recently, Delta Airlines reworked its schedule at Atlanta-Hartsfield to make better use of off-peak periods by scheduling flights in 12 connecting banks instead of ten banks. This has had the effect of reducing peak hour delays from 20 minutes down to six minutes.
I have several recommendations I wanted to make, starting first relating to this banking issue. I strongly recommend that the other airlines review their own schedules to see if similar steps can be taken.
Second, airlines need to be granted a limited anti-trust exemption to allow them to discuss aspects of their schedules and to make more efficient use of airport capacity. Tomorrow we are going to have a hearing on that issue. As you know, Chairman Young and I and others, Mr. Lipinski, both sides of the aisle, have introduced H.R.1407, which will help resolve some of these issues. I intend to expedite the markup and passage of this legislation.
Third, we need to encourage airlines and travelers to use available capacity at regional airports.
Lastly, both FAA and Congress must also be prepared to consider limited forms of demand management. Imposing safety limits on take-offs and landings at our most congested airports and imposing congested pricing are also options that have been mentioned.
While these alternatives that I have just referred to may be unpopular solutions, I believe that they can aid in reducing delays and ensuring safety for our air traveling public. Our challenge in considering these changes will be to protect air service to our small communities, to provide opportunities to new entrant carriers and to continue to guarantee access to general aviation.
Page 13 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In a few minutes today we will hear from our first panelist, FAA Administrator Jane Garvey and then we will hear from our second panel of witnesses.
At this time I am pleased to yield to the Ranking Member, Mr. Lipinski.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding this hearing today on the FAA's highly anticipated capacity benchmark report.
I would also like to thank Administrator Garvey and her dedicated staff for all their hard work putting this report together. I know it has been quite a challenge.
Capacity benchmarks for the nation's top airports provide a useful framework for better understanding airport runway capacity and airline demand throughout the country. Capacity benchmarks will add important information to the ongoing discussions regarding how to best address the growing delays and congestion at our nation's airports.
Unfortunately, there is some risk that the capacity benchmarks will be misinterpreted or misused. According to the FAA's own report, capacity benchmarks help identify problem areas but are not in themselves a solution or even an adequate basis for picking solutions.
Airport capacity is a very complex concept and it is not easy to quantify. Airport capacity is different from airport to airport, day to day, from hour to hour. A great number of factors such as weather and wind conditions, runway configurations, mix of aircraft types, air traffic control and airport terminal capacity, to name just a few, influence capacity.
The FAA, in its report has identified the maximum number of flights an airport can routinely handle under good weather conditions and adverse weather conditions. However, this is not an exact science. For example, controllers at a certain airport may be able to handle more than the maximum number of flights in one hour. However, they simply are not able to handle the greater number of flights for a long period of time.
In addition, the number of flights operated during adverse weather obviously depends on the weather conditions and can fall far below the reduced rate listed in the FAA report. Again, airport capacity changes from day to day, hour to hour.
Page 14 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC That is why under no circumstances should these capacity benchmarks be interpreted as capacity caps or ceilings. In addition, the FAA capacity benchmarks are just the snapshot of current runway capacity at the nation's top airports. They do not take into account air space capacity in the terminal or en route centers.
They also do not take into consideration the capacity of other airfield facilities such as taxiways, ramps and gates. Air space, air traffic control, air field facilities and terminal accommodations are all important factors that were not considered, but that greatly influence the volume and efficiency of airport operations and therefore airport capacity.
Again, capacity benchmarks are a useful tool in discussion regarding solutions to congestion problems plaguing our national aviation system. However, capacity benchmarks are just one tool. As I said, airport capacity is a complex equation. At the same time, we all know that delays and congestion are caused by many factors and there is no one easy solution.
Again, I want to thank Administrator Garvey for putting together this report. I look forward to continuing to work with you on a comprehensive solution to the delay problem.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. MICA. Thank you.
I recognize the gentlemen from Tennessee, Mr. Duncan.
Mr. DUNCAN. Well, thank you, Mr. Chairman. I have no formal opening statement, but let me just say that I appreciate your calling this hearing on this very important, very timely topic. I appreciate the meeting that you and I had last night to discuss this and many other related topics.
I will say this: I know that many of these or most of these delays that people are so concerned about are caused by weather problems. There is not much we can do about that, but the public is demanding that we do some things. I think you are trying very hard, you and Ranking Member Lipinski and Ranking Member Oberstar are trying very hard to come up with the proper solutions.
Page 15 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC It is a fact of life that if people have 100 good flights and one really bad flight, the flight that they remember and the flight they talk about is that one really bad flight that they had and we all have to deal with that.
I know under your great leadership, and I appreciate the great start you have gotten off to in chairing this subcommittee and I want to work with you in every way possible to try to arrive at some solutions and some things that we can do to help alleviate some problems that are very, very important to the people all over this nation.
Thank you very much.
Mr. MICA. Thank you to the former Chair of this subcommittee. I want you to know that the current Chair even experiences those delays and frustrations and was diverted last night on my flight. I knew I was going to get in on time, but I ended up in Baltimore. I went through some horrible thunderclouds and I prayed all the way with my wife. We made it into Baltimore and then turned around and came back. But I missed both votes. I want that reflected in the record so my opponent in the next election knows that I, too, suffer those delays.
Mr. Oberstar, you are recognized.
Mr. OBERSTAR. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. We all, no matter what station in life, experience those delays. It is a continuing thorn in the crown of chairmanship to experience those delays.
Mr. MICA. It is a humbling thing, Mr. Former Chairman.
Mr. OBERSTAR. I urge observers of the congestion scene not to think of delay as monolithic. There is no silver bullet, which, if we pulled the trigger, would solve the problem. All too often, reporting on the subject intimates that there is this, if we just do this one thing, everything will be solved.
From the former Secretary of Transportation and the former Vice President hauling out of pocket a vacuum tube saying, ''This is what is the problem with the air traffic control system,'' it isn't. It never has been and it is not now.
Page 16 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC There are multiple causes: capacity of runways, capacity of the air traffic control system, capacity of the en route system, the terminal environment and airlines scheduling. Of those causal factors, runway capacity was the focus of the FAA study, which, I join Mr. Lipinski in congratulating Administrator Garvey and the whole staff, again, for doing a superb job as a follow-on of a previous study. Once again, FAA has done an outstanding job of reporting.
The report does tell us what we have known intuitively, and what many of us have addressed in previous hearings, that at the 30 busiest airports airlines have a tendency to build delays into the system by scheduling more flights than runways can accommodate, that runway capacity is limited, that we need to pour more concrete and asphalt to expand capacity and that we have to improve our air traffic control system.
But the study was very interesting. It sets two benchmarks for airport capacity. The first, optimal capacity, that assumes unlimited ceiling, unlimited visibility and no adverse winds. The second sets a reduced capacity level, assuming adverse weather, IFR (instrument flight rule) conditions.
The study shows that, at a few of the top 30 airports, schedules exceed optimum capacity for a few hours a day. For nearly half of the top 30 airports, the schedules exceed the reduced rate capacity for two to eight hours a day.
Now, you could conclude from the study that all we have to do is shift schedules at peak hours and reduce delays. But in my view, reducing schedules should not be the primary answer to delay. If schedules are reduced to the optimal format, then only a relatively small number of flights at a few airports will be shifted or eliminated.
If, on the other hand, you reduce flights to the lower benchmark level, worst weather conditions, you can really reduce delay, but you are taking a lot of capacity out of the system. I would be very cautious about reducing flights that do not exceed optimum capacity level because that would eliminate flights that can be handled in better conditions.
Page 17 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC So, if there have to be reductions in schedules, it should be done through voluntary action by the airlines as Delta and American have recently done. I would urge other airlines to review their situation at particular airports and make appropriate changes on their own that will help reduce congestion.
But in the real world, airlines are not likely to act unilaterally for fear of competitors moving in and absorbing capacity that they would yield.
That is why I have proposed and why we have introduced a bill that revives the once extant anti-trust immunity for the airlines with DOT oversight to discuss cutting back flights at times when scheduled operations exceed airport capacity.
The authority provided in the bill we have introduced would give airlines a tool, just one, that can be used in the short term to redistribute operations at congested facilities, while in the longer term, air space reconfiguration and airport capacity improvements move ahead.
Now, I would not favor another step of using FAA benchmarks to impose a legal limit on flights. Once you write something in law it becomes extremely inflexible and very difficult to change.
We have already had a bad experience with doing that in 1969 when Congress enacted capacity limits on hourly operations at five high-density airports. The slot program, combined with the 1986 buy-sell rule, has had a long and dismal history of windfall profits to carriers originally awarded the slots, who took property in the public domain, made it private property and then imposed restraints on competition, refusing to sell or rent slots to other carriers at reasonable prices or new competitors who could come in and offer competition.
We must not repeat those mistakes. I am also very, very leery of congestion pricing, which means higher costs for airlines, higher fares for passengers and discouraging service to small communities.
Page 18 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC But if we do go down the path of some sort of slot control system envisioned in legislation, I can assure you that I will not support allocating slots only to the incumbent airlines. I will insist that slots be distributed so that we ensure that this scarce resource that we are then creating by legislation will be allocated fairly to large and small carriers serving the widest array of communities, and no windfall profits by assuring that there will be no permanent ownership of slots, which should then remain in the public domain, not in the private domain.
Shifting schedules to runway capacity levels must not be the only way to avoid congestion and delays. Handling flights without delay requires four essential components: realistic scheduling by the carriers, efficient air space design, effective through-put management and full use of the AIR-21 guaranteed funding levels for airport infrastructure and air traffic control technology modernization.
When we do all of those things, then passengers can have trust in airlines schedules and can make realistic travel plans. This committee also has to stand up to earmarking by the Appropriations Committee for airport capacity projects.
Improvement in the air traffic control procedures is essential to increase the capacity of the en route and terminal environment. FAA and the airlines have to speed up efforts to modernize our air traffic control procedures. We cannot continue with a system that basically was designed in the 1920s with bonfires and lighthouses and radio beacons in the 1930s and that still guides aircraft along routes designed 60-plus years ago.
Automation tools added in the 1970s still were superimposed upon those outmoded procedures and have remained relatively unchanged. So, relying on a fixed route system severely limits the capacity of our air space.
We provided $40 billion over three years in AIR-21. Is Bud Shuster up there smiling? I think so. But we cannot assume that pouring more concrete is the only answer. We also have to encourage the new runway technology, ADS-B and FMS and RNAV. All those have to be moved to the firing line as quickly as possible, especially for adverse weather, as the Chairman just cited and as I experienced myself over the weekend with sleet and ice storms in Northern Minnesota.
Page 19 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC So, we need to strike a balance in which delays are reduced to tolerable levels but do not excessively limit schedules that cause reduction in scheduled service to small communities.
Mr. MICA. Mr. Oberstar, if you are about to conclude
Mr. OBERSTAR. I have concluded.
Mr. MICA. I didn't want to stop you, but I wanted to interrupt for just a second. Mrs. Kelly has a critical meeting that she is a couple of minutes late for. She just has one important thing she wanted to raise.
I can come back to you. I don't want to cut you off. I would never do that.
Mr. OBERSTAR. I concluded.
Mr. MICA. Mrs. Kelly, I know you have to leave. You are recognized.
Mrs. KELLY. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I just went through, Ms. Garvey, the numbers of major airports that you have listed as ones that are going to experience major delays in capacity. The thing that struck me is that 63 percent of the major city airports in the nation will experience some kind of capacity problems. Of that 63 percent, according to my figures, 23 percent are in the New York City area airports.
We have some serious problems in New York City. I am extremely concerned that we address those problems. Unfortunately, because I have to leave, I am going to submit questions to you in writing.
Part of our problem in New York is that, as you know, we don't have the ability to build more runway space. We need to start looking at our regional airports I think somehow and try to perhaps better utilize what we have.
Page 20 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC So, I thank you for coming today and speaking.
I thank you, Mr. Chairman, for letting me speak.
Mr. MICA. I thank you.
I didn't mean to interrupt. If you want to conclude, I would be happy to have you do that.
Mr. OBERSTAR. Mr. Chairman, I concluded. I am serious about that.
Mr. MICA. Thank you. I just wanted to extend that courtesy.
Let me recognize the gentle lady from California, Ms. Tauscher.
Ms. TAUSCHER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Well, Madam Administrator. Let me thank you and your very, very capable staff for all the support that you give to the San Francisco Bay area and Northern California. You have a special team assigned to the San Francisco airports expansion. I cannot tell you how critical that is for us.
What I really want to do is take a very brief moment. You are very well aware. I remember when you landed in California the night of Y2K. We didn't have any weather problems that night, but we weren't expecting those kinds of problems that night. But you are a great friend to us, as is your staff.
We are, as you know, are going through an expansion process that I think could be a model for the country that would highlight all of the complex challenges that are making air travel very vexing. At the same time we are trying to maintain and even increase, if possible, our safety numbers and to make sure that we are sustaining the economy, maintaining livable communities, and of course, protecting our environment.
We in California pride ourselves on being able to balance all three of those things. What I really have is an invitation. You and I just spoke briefly, personal, before. I would love to have you come to the Bay Area soon and join with me to host a regional forum that would highlight the opportunities for San Francisco airports infrastructure needs and to include specifically our environmental community, which is going to be a very important ally in finding a way to keep this balance going. I look forward to inviting you formally and to setting a date to do that.
Page 21 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In the Bay Area, Mr. Chairman, where we are at the center of an economic earthquake, we have, as I said, many real problems, but we also have, I think, a great willingness to work together and to bring together the different groups that are going to be very important for us to reach a common sense, practical solution and at the same time spend real money to do the things that I think are going to create a 21st Century airport for us.
So, I look forward to hopefully having you in the Bay Area this spring. Thank you again for your hard work and for the hard work of your very able team.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. MICA. Thank you.
I recognize the gentleman from New Jersey, Mr. Pascrell.
Mr. PASCRELL. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you for taking us to the FAA center in Atlantic City to understand the research and development that is going on there.
We can address these problems. We don't have to throw up our arms and surrender and we will not.
I want to compliment you, Madam Administrator, for the job that you are doing. What is going on there at that center a lot more people should know about as well. All of the problems that we address in the subcommittee are being addressed in a very aggressive way. So, I want to compliment you on that.
We are in a dilemma in that we know it, we see the problem. As Mr. Oberstar and the Chairman have said, we want one-shot deals that correct everything. It is not going to be that easy. Upgrades at Newark Airport, for instance, increase everyone's safety. That is a very central argument in all of this discussion and conjecture, the safety of people.
I would like to think that we have played some role in your decision to begin the national air space redesign. That is not so easy. As soon as we move flights out of one area we are affecting Cleveland, Ohio, particularly, and the northeast or Baltimore or Atlanta, Georgia. There is a ripple effect here.
Page 22 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Representing the Northern New Jersey area, the subject of many complaints I hear from constituents is about long delays at their airports. Many of those delays are not weather related. It comes as no surprise that at the top of the list of the most congested airports are La Guardia and Newark. Kennedy is not too far behind, however,
So, we have kind of like a smorgasbord in the northeast. Trying to address it and sort it out is going to take all of our efforts on both sides of the aisle.
I hope that we can use this report as the foundation to reassess what we do in terms of an air space redesign and other possible remedies to the problems. The problems must be addressed now. When airplanes in the air are circling airports three or four times before they can land because flights are backed up, we are not only using fuel, but also we are increasing the possibilities of problems and risks in the air.
The FAA report states that La Guardia can handle no more than 82 flights per hour. Yet, just this morning, CNN reported that the airlines there scheduled 91 flights per hour. Now, it seems to me, if that is the case, there needs to be an immediate response to the airlines that use LaGuardia Airport, using that as an example. I mean, the report is either valid or it is not valid. It is valid and I think the committee here needs to be strong about our response. You cannot have it both ways.
Newark, like most other airports, will only see delays get worse, something we have to look forward to in New Jersey and in the area. Over the next decade, this report states that the demand at Newark is estimated to increase 20 percent. Yet, at Newark we cannot increase our runways. In fact, we lengthened one of the runways and you have been part of helping to restructure the entire airport, whether it is a tower, whether it is the radar, all of those aspects that go into this, enough trained air traffic controllers who are not moving on to other areas where they can make more money within the system. It doesn't make any sense.
Perhaps a possible remedy for this over-scheduling could be the bill we are examining tomorrow on authorizing the Secretary of Transportation to grant anti-trust immunity to the airlines so that they can meet and discuss their schedules in order to reduce flight delays. That is a possibility, one part of the answer, of course.
Page 23 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC There are other potential remedies I look forward to examining such as building not only more runways in airports, but also more taxiways and aprons, which are critical to the process. How many times we have landed and we could not dock? How many times we have moved out on to the apron and never take off? That can be accomplished, I think, with less environmental impact which is part of, obviously, all of our agendas.
With increased demand we will see more planes. With more planes we may need to expand facilities in both of those regional airports that Congresswoman Kelly talked about a few moments ago.
The bottom line is that we need to take action to fix these problems and improve the lives of our constituents. So, I look forward.
Mr. Chairman, as the Ranking Member, count on our support. Mr. Oberstar, Mr. Duncan, you know that we are here to find solutions to this problem. It is on top of us. It is not something that is happening next week. It happened last week. I know we will address it.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. MICA. Let me recognize Mr. Johnson from Illinois.
Mr. JOHNSON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. As a new Member of Congress and a new Member of the Committee, I will keep my comments brief, and I hope not too simplistic.
First of all, I want to not only echo, but commend is the right word, you, Mr. Chairman and Congressman Lipinski on your poignant comments in this area.
You know, I want to be not only fair, but I want to be responsible. I understand that as we are dealing with this issue this is far from a simple issue, far from a simple causation. I know there are multiple causes and solutions, potential solutions to the arena that we are dealing with.
But I want to say this to whoever wants to listen: That is that all 435 of us are sent here to represent constituents. I have found, even over the course of these five months, let alone the last five years, horrendous and unacceptable increase in delays, some of which are caused by issues that I am sure, a number of which are, that we have dealt with and are dealing with here today and others of which are caused by other factors.
Page 24 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I do know that those delays, for whatever their causes are and whatever the solutions might be, are just simply unacceptable to people who live in Champagne-Urbana and Chicago and Butte, Montana.
Not only this committee, but the airlines industry and the airports, I assume, are aware of what a tremendous problem this is and at least from my standpoint, I don't intend to sit around and think about it for the next four years while the problem gets worse.
Some of the fault lies, I am sure, with a variety of entities, including Congress. Some of the fault lies with parties that maybe will not want to accept the responsible, but they damn well better because it is a major problem and we have to address it.
Mr. MICA. I thank the gentleman.
I understand Mr. Honda from California has a statement. Mr. Honda.
Mr. HONDA. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I want to thank the Chair and the Ranking Member for holding this hearing.
Airport capacity is of great interest to me because of the San Francisco Bay area of which I represent a portion. They are struggling to accommodate an increasing number of planes with limited runway capacity, as you all know.
The Bay Area will need to make some tough decisions in the coming years as to how the region will meet this increasing demand. There will be a prominent role for Congress to play. I am really pleased to be here to take part in that effort.
I have a couple of concerns and then a question to share with you, Administrator Garvey. I want to thank you for being in front of the subcommittee today and for your leadership. I am sure that it is a tough job, just as we have a tough job here.
I guess the quote I think of is my wife telling me that no one put a gun to your head to do this. So, we are all in it together to try to solve a complex problem. So, I would like the opportunity to work with you in our struggle to find the answers and the solutions for our communities and our country.
Page 25 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Around the country airports are considered gateways not only for people, but also for economic opportunity. This is especially true in the San Francisco Bay area. It is only natural for communities to take advantage of the regional resource that airports are. That means ensuring that there is enough capacity to meet demand by building new runways or altering flight paths.
I am fearful that this effort may in some instances come at the cost of environmental regulations, passenger safety and regional quality of life concerns. I hear daily from my constituents on these issues.
I look forward to beginning a real dialogue with you on these issues.
On a separate note, I would appreciate your thoughts on what role new technologies may play in improving airport capacity. I was recently at the NASA Ames Research Center where they had constructed a state-of-the-art air traffic control simulator. One of the main purposes of the simulator is to improve traffic flow, both on the tarmac and on the runways.
I have seen there that they are able to reconstruct problems. They are current problems and real problems that folks can look at it and come up with solutions and also train personnel.
So, my question is what is FAA doing to introduce these new technologies into aviation planning and congestion relief efforts. I would appreciate a comment on that.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. MICA. Thank you. We will let the Administrator respond after she makes her presentation.
At this time, I don't think we have any additional opening statements. I thank the Members who did participate.
I would like to recognize at this juncture our first panelist and our only witness on this panel and that is the Administrator of our Federal Aviation Administration, Jane Garvey.
Page 26 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We are all anxious to hear your response to the Airport Capacity Benchmark Report, 2001. I want to personal thank you for complying with our request to get it out sooner rather than later.
Hopefully, some of your opening statement comments here will answer some of the questions that have already been raised. Thank you and welcome. You are recognized.
STATEMENT OF HON. JANE F. GARVEY, ADMINISTRATOR, FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION
Ms. GARVEY. Thank you very much, Chairman Mica, Congressman Lipinski, Members of the Subcommittee. I will keep my opening remarks fairly brief. I thought your comments, Mr. Chairman, and so many of the Members articulated the issues far better than I can and really laid them out quite clearly.
Let me begin by saying our hope is that the capacity benchmarks report will provide valuable data to assist airports, airlines and the FAA to make better and much more fully informed decisions that will help, as Secretary Mineta said, close that gap between future demand and capacity.
We focused, as you all have mentioned, on 31 airports, including the top 30, because even though they represent fewer than six percent of our nation's commercial airports, they account for 70 percent of passengers traffic.
Furthermore, each of these airports is expected to experience increased capacity demands. The 31st airport, Memphis, was added because of its importance to the cargo industry.
For each of these 31 airports, we established, as Mr. Oberstar said, two numbers. The first is the number of hourly takeoffs and landings that can be safely accommodated in good weather. The second is the number that can be accommodated when the weather deteriorates, when radar separation is required to be provided. Those two numbers, we believe, describe a realistic expectation of performance for each one of those airports.
Page 27 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The benchmarks were determined in three ways. First of all, we went right to the air traffic team at the airport. We asked them to provide us with numbers based on their collective experience. They know it. They live it. We wanted the benefit of their experiences. Those numbers were compared with the historical arrival and departure data. Finally, those rates were calculated using an airfield capacity computer model. That same model was used to project benchmarks into the future. In addition, we looked at the planned improvements to understand the balance between future capacity and future demand.
Now, as many of you have said, much of the information in the report documents what all of us as frequent fliers know intuitively and that is that there are a handful of airports where demand is either at capacity or exceeds capacity and where in adverse conditions the resulting delays have impacts throughout the national air space system.
Some of you may have seen the Mitre Report that, I think, lays out very clearly what happens when there are delays at Newark Airport and how that ripples throughout the system. The report shows that there are eight airports that have high delays and have a disproportionate impact on the NAS, Atlanta-Hartsfield, Boston-Logan, Chicago-O'Hare, JFK, LaGuardia, Newark, Philadelphia and San Francisco.
As you all have said, and I think rightly so, when we approach an effort like this we always hope there will be a silver bullet or one single solution. But obviously, in this case there is not.
Each of these airports faces a unique set of challenges and therefore requires a specific set of solutions. The report provides us with a good starting point. Our emphasis, and when I say ''our emphasis,'' I mean government, the airlines and the airports, must be to quickly to shift to solutions.
I remember, Mr. Chairman, when you sat at the FAA building and you said, ''What would happen if we focused on the top five airports and really, in a sense, pulled out all the stops?''
Page 28 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We have tried to do that with these airports. We have taken a first cut at potential solutions for each one of these airports. Some of the actions are already underway. They include new technology, some of the free flight tools, for example, some of the air traffic control procedures that Mr. Oberstar referred to earlier and in some instances, runways.
But in other cases, we know that the airport needs to initiate, and we have suggested, that they initiate capacity studies to look at the issue in a much broader way, with a much broader perspective, including such things as airfield considerations, air traffic control procedures and airlines practices.
As for the airlines, and again, I think you have mentioned this, we have seen some very positive steps. Delta is using similar data to modify their own schedule at Atlanta. We know that it is still early, but those modifications appear to have smoothed out the peaks in the schedule.
I think a number of you are familiar with what American Airlines has done in Chicago. They found that isolating the aircraft that serves Chicago from the remainder of the system helps reduce the effect of delays. We think that is very, very positive as well.
I want to also mention the work that is being done at Newark. Continental, I think, has really stepped up and is working not only with the airport, but with us as well. In fact, we meet quarterly to consider options. So, I think those are all very promising steps.
Mr. Chairman, I know that this committee is committed, as we are, to finding the solutions to the capacity challenge that we are facing. As you said, Congressman, we don't want to throw up our hands. We can solve this.
I know that my colleagues and my counterparts in the aviation community share this commitment. The benchmarks are valuable data, but, you have said, it is not the only data. It shouldn't be viewed in isolation. But it is a good baseline to use as we fashion the right set of solutions.
Page 29 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Let me underscore once again what the Secretary has said, and what I have heard a number of airline CEOs say as well. We are in this together and we simply must develop solutions in a collaborative and a constructive way.
I would be very happy to answer any specific questions that you might have.
Mr. MICA. Thank you. I thank you for your opening comments and again, for your cooperation in getting this report to us on an expedited basis.
There are about six of seven critical areas, I think, that have been identified. As Mr. Oberstar also pointed out, there is still capacity, but during peak periods in particular, these airports are strained.
There have been some suggestions made. I believe the Secretary came before us and I know at least informally and publicly he has suggested some congestion peak pricing. How do you think this fits in the picture?
Ms. GARVEY. Well, I think certainly in the case of LaGuardia we have been working very, very closely with the Port Authority to look at a couple of demand management strategies that we would publish in the Federal Register. We hope that those are going to be ready within two or three weeks, to put into the Federal Register to elicit some comments.
We have been very mindful, though, of the policy questions that have been raised by this committee, Mr. Oberstar today and Members of this committee at other hearings. That is that we also want to be mindful of access to small communities. We also want to be mindful of the competition issue.
The options that we are considering and that we are working with the Port Authority on, take into account those issues. Finding that right balance has been somewhat challenging, but we are very close to getting that into the Federal Register.
Mr. MICA. I think you commented, and I did, about what American has done and I believe one of the other airlines in looking at the banking question, which is part of the solution.
Page 30 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. Oberstar also said that it is not the whole approach we should be taking. We do have, and even in my community we have a lot of airports that are under capacity. I am still at a loss as to how we better utilize some of the under capacity.
My concern was heightened yesterday when I was at 37,000 feet, trapped with a pilot who had just missed his connection. We were both shanghaied by weather. It was no one's fault. There was nothing you could do about it. But we were shanghaied to Baltimore.
We were talking about the Delta potential settlement. This pilot said that there were several concerns he had. We had a discussion. It helps take your mind off of those thunderclouds. But he said there were some additional scope clauses being put into the provisions for Delta pilots, which would limit the number of regional jets and some of the other aircraft serving what might be potential markets in some of these underserved communities.
How do we deal with serving these underserved airports that have capacity? We have labor agreements. I mean they are going to cut a deal that is going to be around for some time. It puts further constraints on our ability to get into some of those markets.
Ms. GARVEY. Well, I am not familiar with the clause that he is referring to, but let me just speak a little bit about it. It was an interesting comment.
Mr. MICA. I am not either. I thought, my God, here we are trying to find ways to service underserved areas. I will bet I could go through this panel here and find enough airports that are underserved. Most of our problems, as you have cited, are at six percent of the airports.
Ms. GARVEY. I think that is still a question we don't have the full answer to. But I will give you at least part of the answer. First of all, I think Congress took a great step forward through AIR-21 because those additional dollars that are now going to small and mid-sized airports are going to provide the infrastructure at those airports that make it much more attractive to go there. So, I think that is a very positive step forward on the part of Congress.
Page 31 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In addition, you are going to hear from Tom Kinton from Boston who is on the next panel. I know he is living this firsthand. They are working very, very aggressively to deal with the Logan problems and the Logan challenges by encouraging regionalization.
In fact, I noticed in an article the other day, a USA Today article, that Boston-Logan is actually promoting and advertising for some of the airports that are in New England such as, Manchester or Worcester or others. So, I think those are the kinds of things that we are going to see more of.
I think Los Angeles is doing the same sort of thing, looking at their regional airports. Even in New York, when we think of what is going on with their three airports, we are hearing that the Port Authority is talking much more about looking at the New York airports as a system. The capacity studies that they are taking on really look at those airports as a system. We need more of that.
Mr. MICA. I am going to give the other Members a shot at this. Tomorrow we are having our hearing on the anti-trust question. I think you have had an opportunity to look at the anti-trust question. I think you have had an opportunity to look at our 1407. What is your official position?
Ms. GARVEY. I always defer that to the Secretary.
Mr. MICA. Well, no, you are the FAA Administrator. We want your comments. Speak now or forever hold your peace.
Ms. GARVEY. I know the Secretary is very interested in this. This is something that I think you all have mentioned, particularly in bad weather.
Mr. MICA. If you have any problems with it, we need to hear about it real soon. We are going to have the hearing tomorrow and I intend to mark it up within two weeks, if Mr. Lipinski and Mr. Oberstar are willing.
Ms. GARVEY. Well, I can say that the Secretary has certainly expressed great interest in that concept. So, I think we will work closely with you.
Page 32 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. MICA. Mr. Lipinski.
Mr. LIPINSKI. I yield to Mr. DeFazio.
Mr. MICA. Mr. DeFazio, the gentleman from California.
Mr. DEFAZIO. Oregon. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. MICA. That was close.
Mr. DEFAZIO. We are a little sensitive to that. We are bordering on the Pacific Ocean.
I thank Mr. Lipinski for yielding his time. We had a deal that I wouldn't give you a speech, but I would get to ask questions because I have to leave. So, I saved some of your time. I hope to get credit for that.
Now, you have this information, the report. I didn't have a copy. I borrowed one from the staff, so I can't wave it around. But, we have the report. We can see the spiffy little charts. We can see the spikes that are above capacity under optimal conditions and under limited conditions.
What happens today if an airlines says, ''Well, we want to land at Atlanta-Hartsfield or we want to land at Boston-Logan. See that big spike there where we know we can't land all the planes that are currently scheduled? We want to schedule five flights to come in at that time because we are establishing a new spoke on our hub.''
What happens today?
Ms. GARVEY. Well, today, with deregulation there is a lot of flexibility that the airlines have. Our hope is that when we are laying this information out that it encourages all of us to take a look at it and figure out what we can do, what the right solutions are.
Mr. DEFAZIO. You mean they would be allowed to schedule those flights, or at least schedule them on paper.
Page 33 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. GARVEY. That is right, Congressman. They would schedule them on paper. Obviously, from the air traffic perspective, we couldn't get them all off at the same time so there would be some staggering.
Mr. DEFAZIO. How would the priority be set on a daily basis? Say there were 50 flights that were scheduled to come in during a certain period. They are already over capacity during that period. Another airline wants to schedule another five flights during that period. Do their five flights go to some lower priority than the 50 that had been previously scheduled or is that just decided on a daily basis, whoever contacts ATC first gets to go first?
Ms. GARVEY. The latter is exactly how it is. I have my air traffic experts here and they tell me that priority is determined on a daily basis.
Mr. DEFAZIO. So, there is no incentive for the airlines to limit operations at times that are already over-subscribed except for the fact that their passengers are delayed, but their passengers don't have that information so they don't know they are almost inevitably going to be delayed.
Ms. GARVEY. That is correct, Congressman. I would defer to the airlines, but I do think they would say that they are really responding to the demand and that, you know, when you reach
Mr. DeFazio. That is an interesting question. I mean, are they responding to demand? I don't get to say, ''Hey, you know, I really wanted to fly at 6:30. I get a schedule that says you can fly at 6:00 a.m. out of Eugene to Denver.''
I don't get to say, ''I would rather go at 5:30 or I would like to go at 8:00.''
It is not demand. It is sent down to the receiving end, which is the passengers, by the airlines. Demand could perhaps be modified. Rather than withstand delays, people might be willing to change their schedules a little bit. Leave a little earlier or leave a little later, and you probably won't be delayed.
Page 34 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I think an awful lot of the blame here has to go to the airlines. I find it a little odd that the only solution we are being offered right now by the committee is ''Well, let us wave their anti-trust so that they can get together and collude over schedules,'' instead of saying, ''Look, we are already over capacity during that hour; nobody else is going to schedule a flight during that hour.''
Nobody else is going to schedule a flight during that hour. That is the way it is. There is no capacity there. It just seems odd to me that anybody who wants to can just schedule another 100 flights during that hour. Whoever contacts ATC first or can get off the ground first, wherever they are, well then they have priority on a daily basis. This is a free-for-all system.
Don't we have an awful lot of hours of the day where these airports seem kind of empty?
Ms. GARVEY. Interestingly enough, and I think this is one of the ways that the capacity benchmarks are helpful. There is not a lot of unused capacity. Certainly at some airports there may be. But if you look at the top airports, there is not a lot of unused capacity in the system.
Mr. DEFAZIO. Except the back of the clock, maybe?
Ms. GARVEY. Well, at the back of the clock, the very end of the clock, there may be. Particularly at those top six, we are really seeing it. There is not a lot of flexibility in the system when that capacity is so taken up. So, that is part of the challenge.
Mr. DEFAZIO. People tend to look at the system as an East Coast system, but we have a nationwide system. Those of us in the west are at the other end of the system. I think the problems for people in the west are a little different than the problems of the people who want to fly to LaGuardia.
Page 35 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. GARVEY. I think that is probably true. We do know that that triangle that we have talked about in the past that run from Chicago to Boston to Washington and back up to Chicago really is the most congested.
Again, I would go back to some of the experience, and this is really reinforcing your point. When you have airlines taking a look at their schedules as some have done, they are able to make some modifications, smooth it out, make some changes.
So, again, I think what we will see here, particularly with the top eight, is a recommendation for airlines, on a voluntary basis to take a look at the schedules and make changes where it may make sense. I think there will be some places where it will make sense.
Mr. DEFAZIO. Thank you. My time has expired. Thank you.
Mr. OBERSTAR. Would the gentleman yield? If I understood the gentleman rightly, he is suggesting that an option would be to freeze existing schedules. Is that right? Rather then engage in the anti-trust negotiation?
Mr. DEFAZIO. At the identified over-capacity hours.
Mr. OBERSTAR. But that might have the unintended consequence of freezing out new entrant airlines.
Mr. DEFAZIO. Well, that goes to our whole problem with the way we have allocated slots as a property right, which I don't agree with. But that is a subject for another day.
Mr. OBERSTAR. I just wanted to raise that.
Mr. DEFAZIO. I thank the gentleman. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. MICA. Welcome tomorrow to our second hearing when we will discuss that.
The gentleman from Tennessee, Mr. Duncan.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I want to continue some of the points that have just been raised. I want to see if I can get clear. You said there is not a lot of unused capacity. Taking that one step further, is there a great deal of over-scheduling now and if so, how much? What percentage of these delays would you attribute to over-scheduling if there is a lot of over-scheduling?
Page 36 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. GARVEY. Congressman, in looking at the benchmarks, you really have to look at individual airports. So, those top six that I talked about, the significantly delayed airports, are either at capacity or slightly over capacity during parts of the day.
When weather deteriorates, it becomes a real problem. I am not sure I can give you an exact percentage at those airports. We really have to look at them individually. I will turn to my air traffic experts and see if they have a better answer.
They are reinforcing that we look at the individual airports. Maybe I should be more clear. When I was talking about the unused capacity, I was talking principally about those most congested airports. There is not really much unused capacity at those airports.
Mr. DUNCAN. Well, other than weather, do you think that over-scheduling is the second biggest problem or the second biggest cause of delays?
Ms. GARVEY. I am not sure we can go immediately to that. That is why I think it is worth the airlines taking a look at those individual airports and looking at the scheduling as some of the airlines have already done. I think sometimes there are small modifications or changes you can make that might smooth out the system.
It is clear that we have problems at some of these airports. I think there is something all of us can do. One of the problems, and I think you may hear this from Mr. Ryan, is in the en route area as well.
So, we have terminal issues, but we also have the airlines or the aircraft trying to get into the flow to get into, for example, Detroit. That is why the work that we are doing in the choke points, such as opening up sectors, is so critical and so important. My point is that it has to be attacked almost on a multiple front.
Look at scheduling. Look at choke points. Look at all of those issues.
Mr. DUNCAN. Well, let me ask you about that. The Chairman mentioned in his opening statement the fact that Delta had reviewed their schedule and has gotten their delays down from an average of 20 minutes in Atlanta to six minutes. Is that accurate? You mentioned that other airlines are doing that now. Are most of the airlines, at your request or on their own initiative are most of the airlines reviewing their schedules?
Page 37 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Have any others completed those reviews or have any others made the progress that Delta apparently has made in Atlanta?
Ms. GARVEY. I suspect Mr. Ryan will have more accurate information. I certainly know about the work that Delta has done in Atlanta and that American has done in Chicago. Continental is looking at its schedule every single week and every single day at Newark as well. I understand United has taken some of those same steps at San Francisco. Perhaps Mr. Ryan can be more specific about that.
Mr. DUNCAN. Okay. Let me just mention two other things very quickly because I am sure my time is already up or close to it. We have been given a list saying that at least six of the major airports, Kennedy, LaGuardia, O'Hare, San Francisco and two or three others where some of the worst congestion is, there are no plans at any of those major airports for any new runways.
Are you looking at that and encouraging some of those busier airports to consider the possibility of new runways if at all possible?
Secondly, totally unrelated, if we do something to start enforcing capacity limits I know these capacity benchmarks are sort of a starting point will you try to keep in mind a point that Mr. Oberstar just mentioned about making sure that we don't stop new entrants from coming in and that we also safeguard or consider these underserved communities. Obviously, that is a big concern of mine.
Ms. GARVEY. Congressman, absolutely. That, frankly, is the great challenge as we are looking at LaGuardia Airport. We want to do the best that we can to make sure that those public policy questions that are so important to this committee are protected. You know, it won't be perfect, but the best that we can under any construct that would involve any sort of demand management strategies. We are only looking at LaGuardia.
You asked about runways. Yes, absolutely, to the extent that airports can look at runways, we are encouraging that. We are asking some airports to undertake capacity studies that include what might happen with runways. It includes also air traffic control procedures.
Page 38 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC San Francisco, for example, is in the very early stages of discussing a runway. We are certainly committed to working very closely with them on that issue.
Mr. DUNCAN. On the runways, we have to do something about these environmental laws so that we shorten that time span that it takes. It is just crazy to take ten or fifteen years to build a runway that we should be able to build in two or three years, just because of all these environmental rules and regulations and red tape.
Ms. GARVEY. Congressman, at the request of this committee, we will be submitting a report to Congress very soon on some recommendations that we have on airport planning streamlining. I know ACI and AAAE have been working with you or with your staff on that issue.
Mr. DUNCAN. I know Secretary Mineta is very interested in that. He has mentioned that.
So, thank you very much.
Ms. GARVEY. Thank you, Congressman.
Mr. MICA. I thank the gentleman. I recognize Mr. Oberstar.
Mr. OBERSTAR. Thank you again for a very splendid delivery.
Ms. GARVEY. Thank you, Congressman.
Mr. OBERSTAR. Reducing to a few judicious comments a very extensive and complex report shows once again your mastery of the subject matter.
How are the daily conference calls working between FAA and the airlines on weather, coordinating information technology, the outlook for the day, and capacity limitations that may arise because of weather? How is that working?
Ms. GARVEY. Congressman, I think that is going very, very well. We conducted an in-depth study with the airlines in the fall about what we could learn from last summer. As a result of that, we have conducted some extensive training that I think has been very, very helpful and we are doing more. We are doing more daily critiques and asking how did it go yesterday? What did we learn? So, I think they are going very well. I have hooked into a couple of them. They are interesting to listen to.
Page 39 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I will also add that since last we talked about this, Canada has started joining in on these conference calls as well. So, Canada is another player who is very important as we look at that northeast corridor and the use of some of their air space. So, that is helpful.
Mr. OBERSTAR. Is the effect to reduce the amount of uncertainty or of holding of traffic so that you don't over delay in one area, which has the consequence of spreading delay all over the system?
Ms. GARVEY. That is exactly right. Many of the airlines have said that they want more predictability. But they also raise some very, I think, interesting and legitimate concerns about whether we are sometimes too conservative on our ground stops. Obviously we care deeply about safety. That drives everything we do. But we have looked at that very carefully with the airlines and I think through the training we have done this year we have a much better understanding of all of our roles including when we ought to be putting ground stops in and when we ought to be letting the dispatcher and the pilot make the call. That is important as well.
Mr. OBERSTAR. I know that in this kind of situation it takes a pretty thick hide to deal with such a matter when everyone is clamoring for capacity and saying, well, you are being too conservative. But I will tell you, the traveling public would rather you be conservative on ground stops. Because the first incident in the air that results in loss of life because of weather will cause a huge outcry, and justifiably so.
Ms. GARVEY. Absolutely. I appreciate your saying that. Thank you.
Mr. OBERSTAR. I have read with some interest the experiment that is underway in the en route environment of reducing vertical separation from 2,000 to 1,000 feet and reducing horizontal separation, especially in the en route environment, but also reducing horizontal separation on approach.
Page 40 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I am somewhat concerned about the vertical separation, but I am very concerned about horizontal separation with wake vortex problems that can, from a 757, cause disruption for those few 727s even that are in the system and smaller aircraft.
I know you have some wake vortex studies underway, but I just hope that all this pressure for capacity doesn't stampede the FAA into taking risks in the en route and terminal environment that can have unintended consequences.
Ms. GARVEY. I appreciate your saying that. I think those are excellent points. Perhaps we could brief you in more detail on some of the studies and where we are. I think your statement underscores why it is so challenging. These are difficult issues and we cannot compromise safety. So, I appreciate those comments.
Mr. OBERSTAR. In the end, no matter what we say or do here, as you said, the report is information only. It is what we do with that information that is useful. I have ultimate confidence that the air traffic controllers, and I have heard this from the Director of the New York TRACON, the Chicago TRACON, and the Washington area TRACON that they will never, never exceed capacity limits in a way that will endanger safety. I believe the air traffic controllers will not allow themselves to be stampeded into risky procedures.
Ms. GARVEY. I think they are the best in the world. They take their mission very seriously. I appreciate your comments.
Mr. OBERSTAR. I noted with interest your extensive comments about Newark which goodness knows, all they need is another runway 5,000 feet apart or 4,300 feet apart from any one of the existing runways. That would solve about 90 percent of the problems there; wouldn't it?
Ms. GARVEY. That is right. The challenge for all of the New York airports is the land constraints that they are operating under.
Mr. OBERSTAR. Well, you do wonderfully with the 980-foot separation, as do the airlines that operate out of that airport. Thank you very much, Administrator.
Page 41 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. GARVEY. Thank you, Mr. Oberstar.
Mr. OBERSTAR. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. MICA. I thank the gentleman.
Let me recognize the gentleman from California, Mr. Horn.
Mr. HORN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I enjoyed your testimony, as usual. You come well prepared. Let me ask you a few fundamentals. How much money is in the airport improvement fund today?
Ms. GARVEY. Today it is at the AIR-21 authorized numbers and it is $3.5 billion.
Mr. HORN. $3.5 billion, not trillion?
Ms. GARVEY. Billion, yes, sir.
Mr. HORN. We are up to trillions in many other areas, so, $3.5 billion. If you put an extra runway on a number of airports, how soon would they take that up, if you just used current construction dollars and time and all that, but just assume that, do we have the money coming down the line that can meet this or are you expecting local airport authorities to chip in also and get their own bond issue?
Ms. GARVEY. Well, again, it has been a while since I have been directly involved in airport planning, but I think the AIR-21 numbers are very, very solid. I think that the AIR-21 numbers combined with the kind of revenue streams that an airport like Logan or some of the larger airports will serve them well.
We have been less focused on numbers since Congress has been so generous on the money side and more focused on some of the environmental issues or the planning issues that cause runways to take a long time to get underway.
Mr. HORN. Do we have a model that says this airport needs one 10,000 runway, one 5,000, et cetera, in terms of the small commuter planes which amass our airports now?
Page 42 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. GARVEY. At the present time, we are developing with the airlines and also with the airport community something called the NAS Operation Plan. That is really a ten-year horizon of where we need to be and where we need to go with aviation.
It includes new runways. It includes technology. It includes avionics. It really includes all elements. So, contained within that would be the runway needs as we look out ten years on the horizon.
Mr. HORN. How many airports really need a 10,000-foot runway?
Ms. GARVEY. I am not sure I can give you the exact number. We can certainly provide that, but it is very few.
Mr. HORN. Insert it in the record, if you would.
[The information received follows:]
There are 129 civil and joint-use airports in the U.S. that have runways that are 10,000 feet or longer. A number of these airports are surplus military airports at which long runways were required for military aircraft. Long runways are typically warranted at airports with long-haul service by heavily loaded airline aircraft. Proposals have been made to build new runways, 10,000 feet or longer, over the next 10 years at Denver, Detroit, Dulles, Baltimore, and Tampa. Proposals have also been made to extend, to
10,000 feet or longer, existing runways at Cleveland, Charlotte and Houston.
Mr. HORN. What is your thinking if Airbus 500 passengers start landing all over the United States? Does that take more than a 10,000 runway?
Ms. GARVEY. I am looking at Congressman Coyne and he is saying no. So, I guess he is the aviation expert on that.
Page 43 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HORN. No, they will never land her or we hope.
Ms. GARVEY. Ten thousand feet, Congressman, will do it.
Mr. HORN. What is the trade-off of the schedules versus the runway? It is often the least bad of something when you have a lot of money, is that your operations costs are much more than your infrastructure costs over time.
So, scheduling, which means you could use a runway much more than some and in some there are too many arriving at six o'clock in one place or taking off in one place at 8:00 a.m. That is just chaos on the freeways, on the infrastructure of the hangar and all the rest of it.
Ms. GARVEY. Congressman, you are right. That is why we focused on the airport runways. That, again, was the basis of this study. Take a look at the capacity. What can we really handle? But it is also interesting that you make the analogy with highways and so forth, because you are right. These are problems that other modes are experiencing as well.
Mr. HORN. In the case of Los Angeles, I am strongly for the 10,000-foot runway. I have been told over the years that some of the pilots really think it is a little dangerous after midnight to land there. Although I am not aware of any crash in that sense. The crash came when the plane was maneuvering on the airport.
Is there any thought ever on the east coast, west coast, gulf coast about an offshore airport?
Ms. GARVEY. I have not heard of anything, any suggestion directly related to that. I would imagine the environmental issues are enormous.
Mr. HORN. Well, in 1972 I suggested that for the San Pedro Bay. My predecessor, Glenn Anderson, said, ''Well, I live up there. That will be over my dead body.'' So, not much happened on that.
When you go and watch that Hong Kong off shore, you know that frankly it is a good thing to do because it doesn't affect the cities involved. It will seem like a lot of money, but you could also have, I think, more things bought there by the airport community. So, it is something I would give some thought to. They can say, well, that is out in the world of the 22nd or 23rd Century. But we ought to try an experiment on that.
Page 44 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. GARVEY. Thank you, Congressman.
Mr. HORN. What are you going to do to get more money in the improvement fund?
Ms. GARVEY. In the AIP fund?
Mr. HORN. Right.
Ms. GARVEY. Well, I will tell you, I am going to look to Congress again.
Mr. HORN. Well, that is fine, but we want your advice on this. Is there something we are missing to get in that pot?
Ms. GARVEY. Well, no. Actually, with the President's budget, we are very grateful for the AIR-21 levels. I think those are very solid levels for us and we would be very pleased if the President's budget was passed at the levels that we have asked for.
Mr. HORN. Thank you.
Ms. GARVEY. Thank you, sir.
Mr. MICA. I thank the gentleman.
I will recognize another gentleman from California, Mr. Honda.
Mr. HONDA. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I will go back to my original question, which is the application of new technology and studying air traffic control capacity, the tarmac and taxiway design. Is the FAA using technology to look at such issues? Can technology really increase the current capacity as it stands now with that application?
Ms. GARVEY. Well, Congressman, I was interested in your comments before because you mentioned Ames. We work very, very closely with NASA. That was an issue that I was concerned about when I arrived at the FAA. I wanted to make sure that we were in very close coordination with NASA and took advantage of the wonderful technology and talent that they have as well. So, we have a very coordinated agenda together.
Page 45 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In fact, our air traffic controllers have visited that tower simulation that you talked about. We have learned a great deal from that. A lot of the free flight tools that we are now deploying were coordinated in their early stages or in their research stages with NASA. They are working on a lot of our free-flight tools as well.
We think technology is absolutely part of the solution. It is sometimes a simplification to say that it is the only solution and I know I have asked even within the FAA, whether we can quantify how much benefit we will receive from technology. It is a little bit difficult to do. You almost have to look at each airport individually. We have heard it ranges anywhere from about five percent to up to 20 percent, depending on the technology, the airport and so forth.
So, it is definitely part of the solution. We are working closely with NASA to implement the new technologies and to take advantage of the expertise there.
Mr. HONDA. What I hear you saying then is that it is in its initial stages right now?
Ms. GARVEY. Well, I don't mean to leave you with that impression. We are actually deploying a number of the tools that NASA worked on. For example, something that we call Free Flight Phase One, are automation tools for our controllers. Those are going out into the field now.
Some of the research that NASA is doing for us now is a little bit more long term, but we are definitely deploying the technologies that we have learned from NASA for which they have done all the research work. We are deploying those tools even as we speak.
Mr. HONDA. The beauty of that simulator, from what I understand, is that it can understand each and every airport situation, so you are really looking at the real situation.
Ms. GARVEY. That is right. It is a great tool for controllers.
Page 46 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HONDA. Is there more support that is needed in order to pursue this avenue of using technology? Could there be more help from other resources or from this committee?
Ms. GARVEY. Congressman, that is always a great question to get asked because particularly in the area of research, we think there is more that we can do.
I want to underscore that, the private sector has really stepped to the fore as well. They are doing a great deal of the research along with us. So, I think there is a lot going on. There is always the thought that research could use more money. But we know you have to balance it with operations and balance it with deploying some of the new technologies that we are trying to do now.
Mr. HONDA. Thank you.
Ms. GARVEY. Thank you.
Mr. MICA. I recognize the gentleman from Arkansas, Mr. Hutchinson.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. Good afternoon to you.
Ms. GARVEY. Good afternoon. It is good to see you.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. I want to just bring you up to date. You came in, of course, to my district and had the dedication of the XNA Regional Airport. It is going great guns, as you know, far exceeding any expectations, with more access to different areas of the country. So, it is all good news to the growth in that area and that airport. Thank you for your help on that.
In reference to my town of Fort Smith, it is interesting that we just got the news that the Delta Connection pulled out, which is the result, you know, of traffic flows. But just to note, if American takes over TWA, they very likely would have a route going from Fort Smith to St. Louis, which would give new access to the east coast. I guess the point would be that that could be a subtle benefit of a merger, if that occurs. So, there might be some benefit to my region if that actually comes about. Just a little information for you.
Page 47 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. GARVEY. Thank you.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. Ms. Garvey, I wanted to thank you for your testimony and ask you about the delays that you found that were attributable to airline schedulingI read the number eleven percent. Is that an accurate reflection as to the delays resulting from airline scheduling?
Ms. GARVEY. Well, that is the number, I think, that Mr. Ryan referred to in his testimony. It is an accurate number based on the information we have. We used what is called OPSNET data. We think that could be more precise. We are transitioning to a new form of data which, I think, will give us even more accuracy.
It is important, though, to also note that 11 percent is accurate. It is also important to note that when you have delays at those eight pacing airports, if you will, it often can ripple through the system. That, of course, is the great challenge.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. That is 11 percent on airlines scheduling. There could be a ripple effect from that. How do you break down the rest of it? I know you covered some of that, but what are the other delays?
Ms. GARVEY. Weather is always a factor in delays. Sometimes it is construction on an airport could be a cause of delay as well. Sometimes there are mechanical issues.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. Traffic control?
Ms. GARVEY. Traffic control and technology.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. Was there a specific percent given to air traffic control?
Ms. GARVEY. There will be, but I would have to give that to you. I can tell you that equipment delays are something like one and a half percent. But we can provide you with a better breakdown. It has been somewhat challenging and that is something that we are working with the airlines on. How do we really categorize it? How do we break it down?
Page 48 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC [The information received follows:]
The FAA's Operations Network (OPSNET) breaks down delays into five categories: weather, volume, equipment, runways, and other (e.g. taxiway closure). For calendar year 2000, 68.7 percent of delays were attributable to weather, 14.0 percent of delays were attributable to traffic volume, 2.1 percent of delays were attributable to equipment failure, 5.9 percent of delays were attributable to runway problems and 9.2 percent of delays were attributable to other causes.
We have now developed a standard definition for aviation delays. According to that definition, a flight is considered delayed if it arrives at the destination gate 15 minutes or more after its scheduled arrival time. We are currently testing the use of this standard definition for aviation delays with four airlines. The four airlines supply information to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) on a voluntary basis regarding the causes for cancellations and delays so that the consumer will have more and better information. We are supporting BTS in this effort.
Additonal information on this subject is found in the Department's Inspector General's audit report titled Air Carrier Flight Delays and Cancellations (Report CR-2000-112, July 25, 2000). The report analyzed air carrier attribution of gate departure delays, e.g. aircraft delays up to pushing back from the gate. The Inspector general indicated that 15 percent of delays were due to air traffic control, 11 percent of delays were due to weather, and 74 percent of delays were due to air carrier factors and other causes.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. In your testimony you mentioned that you reviewed some of the data that you were getting back with the airports and asked for their response, which is terrific. Did you go back with the results that you found to the airline community and ask for any additional information or a response from them?
Page 49 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. GARVEY. We worked with the airlines at the individual airports. When we first put in place the methodology, we wanted to test it to make sure that we were heading in the right direction. So, we tested it out at six airports. The airlines at those airports were involved.
When we went back to the 31 airports, we involved the airlines at those particular airports. Much of this information comes from information that the airlines are pretty familiar with. In fact, Delta's decision to make the modifications they did was based on data that is very, very similar. So this
is familiar information to the airlines.
I think what is going to be critical now as we think through the action plan, is to really make sure that we have the airlines, the airports, all of us at the table thinking it through. That is going to be important.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. Let me ask you a quick question here and end on it. You have an irate air traveler coming up to you and he says, ''Ms. Garvey, what are you going to do about the traffic congestion?'' or he makes a complaint. What is your answer to him? I am sure this has happened.
Ms. GARVEY. Well, you always hope that the person has more than a few minutes, if that is a serious question because the answer is complex. You say, ''Look, we are looking at it in many ways.''
It is much of what we have talked about today. Although you can't answer the question by looking only at technology, we are working as hard as we can to get that technology out. We are also looking at air traffic control procedures and scheduling. We know airlines are also looking at that. Additionally, airports are doing what they can to get runways in.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. You did well in 30 seconds. I am going to try that answer out when I get hit.
Page 50 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. GARVEY. I am sorry you get asked that a lot.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. Thank you very much.
Mr. MICA. I think she flies under disguise, like I am going to do.
The gentleman from Illinois, Mr. Kirk.
Mr. KIRK. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Well, like Congressman Lipinski, I have more than just an academic interest in O'Hare.
Ms. GARVEY. I will bet.
Mr. KIRK. I see from your report that on a good weather day O'Hare is poorly functioning three and a half hours a day and on a bad weather day, O'Hare is poorly functioning eight hours a day with 18 percent growth over the next ten years expected at our facility.
I recently toured the facility with the Mayor's team and we discussed LAHSO--the Land and Hold Short Operation, which was a commonly used operation in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s at O'Hare. I will note that the intersections at the O'Hare airports still leave runways longer than all of the runways at Midway. So, there is certainly potential there.
My understanding is if we were able to implement a safe Land and Hold Short Operation, 20 percent of the delays at O'Hare could be eliminated.
Now, you have work going on in Oklahoma City under FAA contract to look at how we can safely implement Land and Hold Short. I wonder if you could describe how you are doing and what the prospects are for re-instituting this procedure.
Ms. GARVEY. Thank you very much, Congressman. You have accurately outlined why land and Hold Short is critical. We think it is a big, big help in dealing with delays, not just at O'Hare, but at other airports as well.
Page 51 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Again, as you rightly characterized it, it has been something that has been used throughout the years. On the other hand, the pilots have raised some safety issues. We always take those issues seriously, which is why we are working so hard at Oklahoma City to do the modeling.
I remain very optimistic that we are going to be able to solve this. We need that kind of capacity. I know that pilots recognize its importance. Controllers do and the airlines do as well. Again, I think this is an issue. We will do the modeling, but we have got to get everyone at the table saying, let us take a hard look at it. Let us figure out how we can solve this problem.
Mr. KIRK. I want to help you in any way I can.
Ms. GARVEY. Thank you, Congressman. I appreciate that.
Mr. KIRK. We need to have the Airline Pilots Association and the FAA and the Congress sit down and see if we could make this happen.
Ms. GARVEY. Thank you, Congressman. I think the airlines should be included as well, because it really is in all of our interests.
Mr. KIRK. On your O'Hare benchmarks, I understand we are missing the new runway data because it wasn't planned and it wasn't requested by the airport. If I or this committee requested it, could we get that?
Ms. GARVEY. Congressman, I am sure that that request would be honored. In the action plan that I referred to earlier, as another consideration, we have suggested that the airport might want to take a look at the capacity study, update what they did in 1991. They seemed very willing to do that. I understand the Mayor mentioned that yesterday in some comments he had. So, I am encouraged by that. I think that will be very helpful.
That study allows you to look at airfield reconfiguration. We can do what San Francisco or what Los Angeles is doing and reconfigure existing runways. It allows you to look at a host of issues. I don't feel people should feel constrained by it. It is an opportunity to add some capacity at this very important airport.
Page 52 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. KIRK. If you were able to fill in the numbers, certainly, I think you would have an even better selling document than a John Gresham novel in Chicago. It would certainly be well read.
One of the other keys to this is the reliever and corporate aviation around O'Hare, both Palwaukee and to a lesser extent, Waukegan. Right now at Palwaukee, just north of O'Hare, we have a crumbling main runway as the principal reliever to O'Hare. I encourage you to take a look at that. There is a fiscal year 2001 or 2002 request for the runway.
I know at Teterboro, maybe this is an urban legend, we had the FBO just paint an ''x'' in the runway until the money came through to repair it. But we are certainly getting to that stage in Palwaukee, but it plays a critical role in helping to take the heat off O'Hare.
Ms. GARVEY. We will take a serious look at that. Thank you, Congressman.
Mr. KIRK. Thank you. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. MICA. I thank the gentleman.
Let me recognize the gentleman from South Dakota, Mr. Thune.
Mr. THUNE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Ms. Garvey, crowded air space has not been a problem in South Dakota. But to get anywhere from South Dakota, you have to connect. That does create a lot of problems. So, it is an issue that a lot of people that I represent deal with. There is a lot of frustration out there.
As someone who travels frequently, I can personally attest to a lot of the issues that come up.
I have a question. This maybe is a simplistic question, but who decides on the schedules at the airport? Obviously, the airlines schedule, but do the airports say ''You can't have more flights coming in and out of here?''
Page 53 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. GARVEY. Since deregulation the market is the determining factor. The airlines submit a flight plan to us. As was mentioned earlier, it is sort of first come first served on any given day. Deregulation allows the airlines to set the schedules. The market really is the driver.
Mr. THUNE. But if you get to a point where capacity-wise you can't take any more, I mean, does the air traffic control system, the FAA say
Ms. GARVEY. What really happens, Congressman, is that that often is why we have such long delays. If there are too many at a given hour then we really have to hold them in a queue, if you will. Often keeping them on the ground is because we have to wait until we can get them safely out of there.
The only places, as you may remember, where we really stepped in, and again it was in collaboration with the port authority, was at LaGuardia Airport last summer. The numbers went up so high that we felt we really had to take some steps and implemented a lottery for some of those additional slots, if you will.
Mr. THUNE. One of the questions that I asked the last time that you were in front of this committee was the communication between air traffic control and the individual airlines. I guess my question would be: Has that improved? Have there been any steps taken there?
In my experience at least, what happens generally is air traffic control blames the airline, the airline blames air traffic control and the customer doesn't believe them.
Part of what I think you addressed the last time I posed that question is, you know, efforts to improve communication. Has that improved?
Ms. GARVEY. Congressman, you are absolutely right. The issue of communication is critical. I think we have made some great progress in that area. We are continuing with those conference calls that occur every day, led by the people in Herndon. They start at 5:00 in the morning. The airlines and the weather people all get on a conference call. They continue throughout the day, every two hours, particularly in the bad weather days. All the airlines are a part of that. Particularly on that bad weather days, we establish a strategic plan for the day. How are we going to respond? What are we going to do? We use common weather information, which is relatively new for both us and the airlines.
Page 54 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC There is always room for improvement, but I think we have made tremendous progress in that area. We have learned a lot from last summer's experience as well.
Mr. THUNE. It seems like a lot of the issues and a lot of the problems are communications oriented. I guess everything is on line these days. You can order your tickets on line. There is hardly anything that you can't do on line. The more seamless this process becomes, the fewer breakdowns there are.
I can give you an example. Delays that occurred, I mean I remember sitting at the airport and being told that the plane that we were supposed to depart on wasn't going to be coming in for another couple of hours because the plane we were going to leave for Sioux Falls on had been sent to Winnipeg.
Then the question that was raised was when that plane got in, whether the crew would have enough time because their hours of service had expired, whether or not they would be able to fly to Sioux Falls. This was getting around the 11 o'clock or midnight hour. So, do you sit around the airport only to find out that the crew doesn't have enough hours?
It seems to me a very simple thing would be to talk to the crew and find out. I mean just communication that way. I know that is not your issue. That is an airline issue. But the point I am making is that a lot of these issues are very definitely communication.
One last question has to do with how much of air traffic control I mean my understanding is that our system is somewhat antiquated and that we need to take some steps to modernize it that would incorporate GPS technology, satellite technology. How much of that is being done today?
Ms. GARVEY. That is a great question. We are working very hard on that. Clearly, the long-term solution is satellite navigation, so we are working on WAAS and LAAS, which are satellite navigation systems that will be completed in the 2003 timetable.
I do want to just make one comment about the modernization because while I know it is often stated in the press that the air traffic control system is crumbling or referred to in a negative way, I want to stress again, as I know Congressman Oberstar has at many points, that we have been very aggressive, particularly in the last three years, to get that technology out there.
Page 55 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC If you look at the 20 centers, we have all new hardware in those centers. Now, we are focusing on the terminals. There is a lot going on. I don't want to overstate it or suggest that we are there. You are never completed with modernization, but we are aggressively pursuing it. We lost some time in the 1980s, as people have pointed out, but we are aggressively pursuing technology and getting it out as soon as we can.
Mr. THUNE. Thank you, Ms. Garvey.
Mr. Chairman, I yield back.
Mr. MICA. Thank you.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I just want to compliment the Administrator once again on her benchmark report and on her testimony here today.
I only have one question and that pertains to the situation at O'Hare airport in regards to the fact that on good weather days O'Hare operates at three and a half hours at or above capacity. That is not necessarily a bad thing, is it?
Ms. GARVEY. It is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, I think what is remarkable at O'Hare is how well the system does work on a good day. Those are incredibly professional controllers and it is a credit to the airlines as well that it does work that well. So, it is not always a negative.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Thank you. That is all I have, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. MICA. Thank you. We appreciate your staying with us this long and responding to direct questions from Members. We have additional questions, which I think, Mrs. Kelly and others would like to submit.
Without objection, and with agreement of the Minority, we will leave the record open for a period of two weeks. We will submit those questions and if you would, respond please.
Page 56 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Also, if you have any areas in the action plan that you talked about today, I think everything could be done within existing law, AIR-21, or FAA rules. Is that correct?
Ms. GARVEY. Well, I think the only caveat I would put in is that we are looking at the anti-trust proposal from Congress, because that may make some of these issues much easier.
Mr. MICA. I do have a request, also, to have your official position and review of the proposed legislation.
Ms. GARVEY. Thank you. We will do that, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. MICA. Good. Well, with that, there being no further questions today, again we want to thank you for your cooperation and again expediting the production of this report. We look forward to working with you. It is a very complex number of issues that we have before us. We will work with you on resolving them.
Ms. GARVEY. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman and thank you Members of the committee and staff.
Mr. MICA. Let me now recognize our second panel. The second panel consists of the President of the Airports Council International, North America, David Plavin; the Vice President of Air Traffic Management of the Air Transport Association, Mr. Jack Ryan; we also have the Honorable and former Member of the House, James Coyne, who is President of the National Air Transportation Association, and Mr. Thomas J. Kinton who is the Director of Aviation of the Massachusetts Port Authority.
I want to welcome our panelists. We would like you to submit a lengthy statement or any additional information you would like to be made part of the record through the Chair. We will take it part of today's hearing proceedings. If you could summarize your remarks to approximately five minutes, and we will be running the little clock there. We appreciate your cooperation and we will have an opportunity for an exchange afterwards.
Page 57 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
STATEMENT OF DAVID Z. PLAVIN, PRESIDENT, AIRPORTS COUNCIL INTERNATIONAL- NORTH AMERICA AND ON BEHALF OF THE AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF AIRPORT EXECUTIVES; JACK R. RYAN, ACTING SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, AVIATION SAFETY AND OPERATIONS, AIR TRANSPORT ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA; HON. JAMES K. COYNE, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL AIR TRANSPORTATION ASSOCIATION; AND THOMAS J. KINTON, DIRECTOR OF AVIATION, MASSACHUSETTS PORT AUTHORITY.
Mr. MICA. With that, let me first recognize Mr. David Plavin who is with the Airport Council International-North America. Welcome. You are recognized.
Mr. PLAVIN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I am here today not only on behalf of ACI, but also on behalf of AAAE, the American Association of Airport Executives.
I am sorry Mr. Duncan has left because I wanted to take the opportunity to thank him and Mr. Lipinski and the entire committee for a great piece of legislation that came through the last session. Of course, Mr. Shuster and Mr. Oberstar were key to making that happen.
It makes a lot of our discussion today possible because in providing the money for many of the airport improvements, it kind of raises the question about okay, how well are we going to do in spending it and how well are we going to do in accomplishing what the money was proposed to do.
So, I will indeed summarize my remarks, a process which is also made easier by the opening that you made, Mr. Chairman, and the comments by Mr. Lipinski and Mr. Oberstar because I would very much like to subscribe to those comments. I think they are right on target and I think they make the point very well.
If I had a reservation about it, I guess it would be in the way in which we use anti-trust immunity, but let me come back to that.
Page 58 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The question about capacity benchmarks is one that airports have been wrestling with for a long time. We have gotten to the point where we have known that there are limitations in the way the airports function and regardless of whether it is for weather or scheduling or infrastructure problems, I think the wonderful service that the production of the capacity benchmarks serves is to give airports the opportunity to plan for the future, to get in place the kinds of plans that they need to have in order to improve the quality of the operations at their facilities.
The one thing that comes through as I read the report and I would like to read it in more detail, but the one that I think stands out is the fact that the runways will make such a significant contribution if we can get them done.
If you pick the top 25 airports in the country that account for 96 percent of all the delays in the system and you built a runway at every one of them, we are really talking of about 50 miles of runway, 25 runways, we are really not talking about that big an effort from a financial point of view, which raises the question about what does it take to build those runways. What does it take to actually accomplish that?
From our point of view, that is one of the reasons why ACI and AAAE have undertaken what we have come to call our EASE proposal, the Expedited Aviation System Enhancement proposal. That is one of those examples where the acronym comes before the words that put it together.
But it does make the point that we think that we can significantly improve the quality of the project approval process and the permitting process and the environmental review process without doing damage to the underlying need to protect the environment.
We have focused, as you know from reading the proposals, on the question of applying resources and applying an approach to making these projects able to be prosecuted in a much more rapid fashion and to do it without interfering with the underlying environmental considerations.
Page 59 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We need to, in the process though, create an opportunity for the airports to play the role that they need to play in figuring out how their community can be best served.
Our view has been that that means we need to get involved in the ways in which we build runways, the times over which we build runways, but equally in the economic operation of the airports. That is why we have some concerns about how the notion of limited anti-trust immunity would be implemented.
Our view is that there are many places that in real time that can be especially helpful. If a hub or a complex airport situation is deteriorating on a given day because of bad weather, it is a great opportunity to say to the airlines that are operating at that airport, why don't you get together and figure out together how to solve this on behalf of the passengers that operate that.
I have a real concern however, that the notion of the airlines sitting down to agree among themselves as to how they will solve the problem of ''over-scheduling'' or over capacity at a given airport is something that we have worked with over a period of time with less than great success.
My own experience with scheduling committees, for example, is that they tend to enshrine the status quo. They tend to in fact operate in a way that doesn't welcome new entrants very readily, that doesn't provide for airport service to small communities and in fact have no incentive at that point to build the additional capacity that the system really needs. And there is no incentive to use the additional capacity that already exists in the secondary airports around major metropolitan areas.
So, from our point of view, we think that the real importance of the benchmarks is to make the point that we really think we need to build more runways. We need to build them faster. We need to build them more effectively. I think that is the real service that the benchmarking study has done.
Page 60 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We very much want to work with the committee to help us see if we can improve that process even further.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. MICA. Thank you for your testimony.
Let me recognize now Jack Ryan who is the Vice President of Air Traffic Management for the Air Transport Association.
Mr. RYAN. Thank you. Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman, Mr. Lipinski, and Members of the Committee. I want to thank you on behalf of the Air Transport Association and our member airlines for this opportunity to provide our views on FAA's capacity benchmarks.
During his testimony on March 15 before the House subcommittee on Transportation Appropriations, DOT Inspector General Ken Mead said ''Capacity benchmarks were being established by FAA in order to encourage airlines to reschedule flights that are chronically delayed or canceled.''
But he acknowledged that the cause of these delayed and canceled flights was unclear at this time. Airlines clearly understand what causes the majority of delays in the national air space system and so does the FAA. Most delays are caused by the effects of en route convective thunderstorm weather causing massive re-routing of traffic and ensuing delays and metering traffic around the effected areas.
This is a scenario that must be dealt with almost every day in the spring and summer. That is why the airlines, the FAA, and the controllers' union spent the last seven months reviewing, revising and implementing the strategic planning process that guides the FAA's collaborative decisions on managing the severe weather process.
Over 3,100 FAA and airline personnel were briefed on the strategic planning process for this summer. Let me put the issues of delays caused by airline scheduling in perspective. Even by the most liberal interpretation of FAA's OPSNET delay reporting system, only 11 percent of all delays in the system last year were attributed to airline scheduling under FAA's category called ''terminal volume.''
Page 61 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. Mead on March 15 also said, and I quote, ''A set of capacity benchmarks is essential in understanding the impact of air carrier scheduling practices.''
Unfortunately, the FAA's benchmarks, as we understand them, do not help us to understand the impact of airline scheduling. A benchmark is supposed to be a point of reference from which measurements may be made. The FAA's benchmarks, as we understand them, juxtapose the airline schedule on the capacity marks, nothing else, no impacts and no measurements.
It is wrong to simply suppose that any time a scheduling peak is observed above the capacity benchmark that the airlines involved are in some sort of scheduling abuse. In order to assess the impact of a schedule, one must at least know the delay caused by that schedule.
What is missing from the FAA's effort is an analysis of the resultant delay caused by scheduling, if any. After all, some delay is accepted in all modes of transportation as a result of accommodating demand when people are free to select the time when they intend to travel.
ATA asked the consulting firm of Landrum and Brown to conduct a study to determine the delay created by scheduling alone at the Atlanta airport before and after a recent scheduling change. Delta Airlines implemented a scheduling change in Atlanta on April first to improve on-time performance and enhance customer service. The graphic is before you in my testimony.
As you can see from the graphic, the waiting times have been substantially reduced, especially in the 2000 hour where the wait time was 21 minutes and it has been reduced to six or seven. Delta Airlines is not the only carrier to have made adjustments to its schedule to deal with delay issues. Continental, American and United Airlines all have adjusted their schedules to reduce delay.
Page 62 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC For example, the delays at Newark are down 20 percent from last year in this first quarter. This is absolutely a positive trend. Capacity figures at airports are not new to the FAA or to the airlines. The FAA has been using them for 30 years at the major airports to allocate demand when traffic management ground delay programs are instituted because of weather-induced capacity reductions.
In closing, let me make the following points: Delays caused by scheduling practices are at most one-tenth of the problem. Each airline understands its role and responsibility in serving passengers and will not impose onerous delays because of its scheduling practices. Airlines can and will make schedule changes to reduce delay.
The inability to coordinate schedules legally at the same airport can create scheduling conflicts and delay. The benchmarks by themselves should not be used as the preeminent tool to address delay problems.
The FAA and the airline industry must continue their daily cooperative effort to reduce the biggest cause of delays, those caused by weather.
Finally, FAA must work smarter and faster in fielding procedures and tools such as those outlined in ATA's top ten list.
Mr. Chairman, I will be glad to answer your questions. Thank you.
Mr. MICA. We will reserve questions until we have heard from all of the witnesses.
I now recognize Jim Coyne, President of the National Air Transportation Association. You are recognized. Welcome.
Mr. COYNE. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
The National Air Transportation Association represents operators at all of the airports that have been listed in this report and therefore we are very concerned about the impact of the proposed FAA regulations on the ability of those operators to meet the expectations of their customers.
Page 63 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Speaking individually, of course, I might also say that for the last over 20 years I have been personally flying in and out of the greater Washington area. Most of that time my individual aircraft was based at one of the busiest airports in the country, here at Reagan National Airport.
I think I am very familiar with the pressures that congested airports have to face today. Simply put, we believe that this report significantly understates the capacity of our existing airports today. But even more importantly, it is unnecessarily pessimistic about our ability to meet the capacity needs of the future.
There are some fundamental facts that are pretty obvious with regard to congested air space at our busiest airports. First and foremost among those facts is that demand is going to increase very dramatically over the next ten years.
I haven't heard much discussion today about how much demand is going to increase in the next ten years. But just based on the FAA's own conservative figures just released last month in the FAA forecast conference, they expect that airline activity will increase by 45 percent in the next ten years; cargo activity by 64 percent, regional and commuter enplanements by 72 percent and general aviation turbojet activity by nearly 90 percent. These are incredible levels of growth.
If we compare that with the supply equation that is being presented today in the FAA's report, how can we as a nation expect a 50, 60, 70 percent increase in demand in a situation today where many people are telling us that the capacity of our airports cannot be increased?
The second fact that I think is important to outline is that as hard as we may try and as hard as we want to try in the next ten years, we are not going to be able to add that many additional new runways.
As much as I would like to see 50 miles of new runways added in the next four or five years, we all know that it is going to take many years. So, the reality is that if we are going to meet this demand faced with the limited ability to build new runways, the only solution is to increase the capacity of our existing runways.
Page 64 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Much as Mr. Oberstar was talking about earlier today, we do have unused technology and unused resources at our disposal that can quickly and within a pattern of two or three years, dramatically increase the capacity of our existing airport runways.
This does not mean necessarily adding more concrete at one end of the runway or the other, which might be nice, but changing the methodology. The term that I think Mr. Oberstar used was ''through-put management.'' This is really a key issue for this committee to consider because there are ways for the FAA and the DOT and airport managers to dramatically increase the throughput onto our existing runways.
On Monday afternoon, I did something rather remarkable. I got in my car at exactly this time, knowing that I was going to be testifying today, and drove out to the end of runway 19 at National Airport. That is right happens to be a picnic bench set there at Gravely Point. I sat on that picnic bench for an hour and counted the planes that went overhead landing at National.
This is a very unbusy time of the day, between 3:30 and 4:30 in the afternoon. It is starting to see the peak growing, but it is a relatively unbusy afternoon. During that hour there were over 75 takeoffs and landings, arguably at capacity.
Yet, there were no planes during the entire hour that had to queue up at all during this period of time. Simply put, National Airport easily handled the so-called optimum capacity level today.
From my observer point of view, having been based at that airport for nearly two decades, is that they could have handled well over 100 aircraft departures and landings in that typical day, if not more than that.
To further back up my subjective viewpoint, I called up the manager of the airport, Jim Wilding, the head of Washington National Airport and WIA and asked him what he felt about these so-called benchmarks. He agreed as well that these are woefully below the real capacity of these airports.
Page 65 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC So, what do we do? I think we have to direct the FAA to create incentives within their management and personnel structure, along with the long-established incentive to maintain a very safe system, but to create a parallel incentive to increase the capacity of these airports.
You and I have been out at airports all the time. You can stand at an airport and you can clock with a stopwatch how long it takes for an airport to get off the ground. It takes on average 35 seconds for a plane to start its engines and move down the runway and be airborne.
We can easily handle 100 airplanes within an hour at a typical airport. At an airport like most of the ones on this list they have multiple airports intersecting with the help of LASSO and sophisticated use, we can have far more capacity on the departure side and I think on the arrival side as well.
I would just like to conclude with one further observation in my 30 years or so of aviation in and out of these airports. These airports have not really fundamentally changed the methodology that they use to accept and schedule arriving planes at these airports in 30 years.
For 30 years the technology has essentially been one where the aircraft, the computer or technology in the airplane, the pilot and the technology on the ground through the ILS or through other technology systems link the airplane in three dimensions, telling the plane where to be vertically, horizontally and spatially. But we do not give the plane any direction about where to be in the fourth dimension, which is time. Where should it be when?
We have the technology to schedule planes using the same devices now to tell the planes they should be let us say 58 seconds behind the plane ahead of it and to have the airplanes maintain that same separation through the same degree of technology that we use to maintain their three dimensional space today.
Page 66 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC So, I am hopeful, very, very hopeful, that the FAA can create an incentive within their management structure to start these innovations in technology. Otherwise, there will only be one outcome. That is where we will see more and more outrage, more and more public dissatisfaction as the demand for air transportation services vastly exceeds our supply.
Thank you very much.
Mr. MICA. Thank you for your testimony.
I will recognize our final witness on this panel, Mr. Thomas Kinton, who is the Director of Aviation for the Massachusetts Port Authority.
Welcome. You are recognized, sir.
Mr. KINTON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee on Aviation.
Boston's Logan Airport is currently undergoing a $3 billion renovation, the largest in the airport's 77-year history. Federal support for Logan modernization is an integral part of this revitalization.
I want to thank you, Mr. Chairman and the Members of the Committee for overcoming significant obstacles to pass AIR-21 which sent the nation's airports more Federal funding than we had ever received before.
I would also like to thank the committee for giving me the opportunity this afternoon to discuss the FAA capacity benchmark report and talk about our efforts in Boston to improve airfield efficiency, ease flight delays and improve operational safety for the traveling public at Logan Airport by adding a new runway.
As we work together to find solutions to the nation's air delay crisis, I want to commend the FAA for undertaking the capacity study which will help us better identify problems, evaluate options and establish priorities.
Page 67 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC According to the FAA's own forecast, 23 million more air passengers will fly into New England by the year 2010. That is the equivalent of adding another Logan Airport and we are never going to add another Logan Airport in New England.
Massport is helping to handle that increased demand by strengthening the New England airport system, supporting high-speed rail and by moving forward with our proposal for a new runway. This runway addresses a significant cause of delay, which is northwest wind conditions that can reduce the airport from three operational runways to as few as one.
We have received the FAA's capacity benchmark report. The report confirms the need for an additional runway at Logan by documenting Logan as a structurally deficient airport. The FAA's report certifies Logan's good weather capacity of between 118 and 126 flights per hour. Yet, the lack of available runways makes it physically impossible for Logan to achieve the FAA's designated capacity during northwest winds.
The FAA's benchmark report recognizes Boston Logan as one of the nation's most delayed airports. For delayed flights per thousand operations in the year 2000, we ranked number five.
Other actions suggested for reducing delays at Logan are regionalizing demand and instituting some form of congestion pricing. We support both options.
Massport stands ready to enact congestion pricing if air carriers over-schedule Logan's good weather capacity. We have already taken a strong leadership role in directing more of Logan's traffic to nearby regional airports and the numbers speak for themselves. In the early 1990's, eight out of ten new air passengers were flying out of Logan. By the late 1990s, eight out of ten new air passengers are now choosing regional airports.
This startling turn-around was not easily achieved as most airports are accustomed to competing with one another. We are now convinced that sharing the benefits and cooperating with one another as part of an integrated aviation system works in the interest of all of us.
Page 68 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Massport continues to work aggressively with our airport counterparts to keep this trend going. In fact, a major commitment of this effort is evident and directly connected to Massport's initiative for a new runway. The runway proposal which is currently under review by FAA and State regulators looks to regionalization as an alternative to Logan as a condition of building the new runway for Logan. Continued regionalization of air traffic is specifically offered as mitigation for the runway project. But the specific connection between regionalization and the runway also reflects Massport's well-established commitment to match vital improvements to operations at Logan with measures that ease Logan's traffic on surrounding neighborhoods.
Runway 1432 has a long history as part of a national effort to improve airport capacity. The FAA, in 1992, listed construction of a new runway at Logan among key items necessary to ensure Logan does not become a permanent liability in the national aviation system.
In summary, Massport's multi-pronged program for improving operations at Logan consists of modernizing Logan's landside facilities, investing in Logan's airfield, aggressively regionalizing demand, and, if necessary, implementing congestion pricing.
The FAA's benchmarking report accurately reflects operational conditions at Logan International Airport and by certifying Logan's capacity at between 118 and 126 operations per hour, the report establishes a solid foundation for those remedial actions that are necessary to make Logan a more reliable airport to fly into and out of.
Thank you and I look forward to answering any questions.
Mr. MICA. Thank you. I will ask you quick question. How long before you build that next runway?
Mr. KINTON. Well, it has been a long history. It has been on the drawing boards since the early 1970s. We are presently in a six-year review process, an environmental process of trying to get the runway approved.
Page 69 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. MICA. So, not in my term?
Mr. KINTON. We are hopeful that we will receive a record of decision later this summer.
Mr. MICA. We have a six-year limit on Chairmanship here.
Mr. KINTON. I hope it is not another six years, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. MICA. But that is really part of the problem. I mean Mr. Plavin just described 50 miles of runway that would solve some of the problems. But it is ''not in my backyard.'' Even if we do EASE, expedite the environmental and permitting process, there are still hurdles and then the actual construction makes it almost impossible in any of the six at-peak capacity airports to build a new runway. Is that correct, Mr. Plavin?
Mr. PLAVIN. Well, there is a runway on the drawing boards and actually very close to construction at Atlanta. We are hoping that that actually gets to move forward very quickly.
But you are right. That is the only one.
Mr. MICA. Even constructing that would take a couple of years; wouldn't it?
Mr. PLAVIN. For sure.
Mr. MICA. Mr. Coyne, you talked about under-capacity. Well, we still have capacity. Certainly this benchmark does show lots of capacity. Even at some of the locations that are sort of maxed out, there are periods when there is capacity.
You said there should be FAA incentives? What did you mean by that?
Mr. COYNE. Well, currently the air traffic controllers are the ones who specifically schedule the arrival sequence and the departure sequence of aircraft at airports, which essentially determines their capacity.
The air traffic controllers have not really changed the methodology that they use to make those decisions as to how much distance is between the planes and how much time is between the planes on arrival and departure because really, they have never been directed to make that a top priority of theirs.
Page 70 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. MICA. Actually, last year didn't they sort of backtrack and expand some of that?
Mr. COYNE. Absolutely. The distance between some of the aircraft has gotten wider rather than narrower.
Mr. MICA. Then when, you know, you say you are going to bring them closer a flag is raised about the safety issue.
Mr. COYNE. I think Mr. Oberstar made a good point with regard to wake turbulence on arrivals. But in terms of departures when the wings are clean, if you will, there really isn't any significant vortex. We could very easily bring aircraft closer together on departures and obviously a departure takes as much of one of these numbers as an arrival does. It takes up as much runway time.
There obviously are safety issues, but DOT and FAA are working very carefully to calculate what are the times between airplanes that are needed in order to safely assure that the wingtip vortices are eliminated.
My experience as an operator of a small aircraft flying in and out of National Airport or Dulles Airport for the last 20 years, I have concluded long ago that the separation standards that currently exist are far, far too conservative and that the operators would be more than happy to reduce the air space between arrival and departing aircraft in the interest of increasing capacity and reducing the delays that the aircraft operators face.
Mr. MICA. Mr. Ryan, you cited Newark as having a 20 percent improvement but some of the reports I am already getting back from the first quarter indicate that we are facing additional delays and problems. Is Newark not the exception, at least for the majors?
Mr. RYAN. I think the delays for the first quarter nationwide are up about 5,000 from last year, January, February and March. The delays in the year 2000 for the first quarter at Newark were 7300 and change and at Newark for 2000 and 5800 for the first quarter of 2001, which is a reduction of about 1500 delays or about 20 percent.
Page 71 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC So, I think, although the nationwide delay picture, comparing the first quarter of this year with last year, the delays are up this year. But at Newark they are down.
Mr. MICA. Well, it is down at Newark. It sounds like Continental is responsible for some of that. American has instituted some changes in scheduling and Delta, which I think I cited in my opening statement.
Does ATA as a policy or are you working now with your members to institute maybe some voluntary re-organization of the banking or ganging of these planes during these peak periods?
Mr. RYAN. I think we have done that since the increase in delays in 1999, the 450,000 delays we had in the year 2000, which is about 20 percent over 1999 and 48 percent over 1998. I think the airlines have got the message. I think the Delta example is a good one.
But I think you have to distinguish between them. I am not saying it is easy for Delta. This required an enormous amount of planning for them to do this. But when you are the dominant carrier in a hub, then you can do things independently.
Mr. MICA. Well, we have got probably six or seven locations that account for 70 or 80 percent of our delays. Most of those are major hubs. I don't want to name any names, but I mean is there some way we can get the others to take a look at this? I guess ATA has no mechanism or ability to influence their members in instituting these practices.
Mr. RYAN. Well, I think looking at schedules, I think that is rather obvious to them. Nobody wants to institute a schedule that causes an enormous amount of delay and passenger discomfort.
Mr. MICA. But they have the ability to smooth out their own schedules.
Mr. RYAN. Their own schedules, yes, sir.
Page 72 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. MICA. We are taking it to the next step as the anti-trust provision.
Mr. RYAN. I agree. In H.R.1407 you will hear testimony tomorrow from ATA. We look favorably upon that.
Mr. MICA. Mr. Plavin, did I hear you sort of hint at sort of limiting the parameters of some of that immunity and scheduling discussion?
Mr. PLAVIN. Yes, Mr. Chairman. My own experience in dealing with scheduling committees is that in places where there is real competition for access to the system, they tend to enshrine the haves against the importuning of the have-nots.
I guess the more difficult part of it is that they accept the status quo in terms of capacity and scheduling of types of airplanes and types of scheduling and so on and provide sort of a disincentive to creating the additional capacity that might obviate the need for them.
In fact, the slot regime that we imposed in 1969 was in many ways a response to the failure of scheduling committees at the time. In the United States we typically use scheduling committees today in international environments to allocate the use of gates among arriving aircraft.
But it is more likely to be used in Europe where there are real limitations on the operations in Europe. In fact, in Europe they probably have a greater delay problem than we do in the system.
So, my colleagues on the European side of the pond are not only unhappy about the limitations that that imposes on their operations, but also on the ability of the communities to be protected, particularly smaller communities and those new entrants who want to gain access to the system.
Mr. MICA. One final question: There have been some different solutions recommended here today. We are looking, of course, at the anti-trust and scheduling situations and proposals for change. Some have said, I think in the Senate there is legislation to restrict the number of flights that one carrier can have out of a hub or a location, as another approach.
Page 73 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Almost anything though that we institute might have to be done by a FAA rule, even congestion peak pricing, other than possibly imposing some safety restrictions just on the sheer number of flights. Otherwise, you get outside of the free market decision and you arbitrarily pick winners and losers. I think you have alluded to that problem.
I have airport runways that won't be built for four years. The average time to enact an FAA rule takes 3.8 years, given the recent history. What do we do?
Mr. PLAVIN. Well, I guess our sense is that there is an example that is coming upon us very shortly that will take us considerably less than the time it normally takes to impose a rule.
FAA's job here is relatively more straightforward because their job ought to be to set the parameters for people to use some of these tools. You need to protect new entrants. You need to protect smaller communities. You need to protect the safety of the system.
But at the same time, having set those rules, then it seems to me, it ought to be up to the marketplace in the sense that we need to free up the whole market, not just the airline scheduling piece of it. Today, I would argue, and I know a lot of the airports that might be affected would argue that the airports don't have enough ability to influence that process, especially with pricing. They are required essentially to under-price the value of what services they do provide.
Now, I am not suggesting that this would have widespread applicability. But it would have applicability in certain specific cases. I know that while most airports don't want to be in the position of limiting capacity, I know their current feeling is that they are overwhelmed by their inability to have any influence on the practices of the people who use them, particularly on the size of the aircraft that use the facility.
Mr. MICA. Thank you. Just one final point: Mr. Kinton, you talked about the regionalization. Are there any specific things that you have done that-I don't want to say ''forced'' regionalization-but it sounds like Logan has created its own re-patternizing of regionalization of air traffic. You cited specific figures of increase, down at Logan and up at others.
Page 74 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Are there any incentives that you could recommend that we could institute that would do this or is this bringing it about by sheer meltdown and congestion?
Mr. KINTON. Well, there are three things that we did and they seem to have worked. One is that we took over a third airport in our system. We took over Worcester's regional airport, which is only approximately 50 miles west of Boston in the second most populated city in New England.
So, having a system of airports, I think, deals with what Mr. Plavin was just alluding to, airport proprietor rights perhaps can play a role here in having some influence in terms of which flights will come into an already congested airport versus those that should go to a regional airport.
For instance, if Logan already has 65 flights a day to New York and we have five more that want to come in, aren't we better saving that very scarce capacity for some long haul services perhaps to London or the West Coast and have those five additional New York flights go to Worcester, as an example?
The second example is advertising. We are using Massport dollars to advertise regional airports that we don't own and operate. It is like Coca-Cola advertising Pepsi. But we are doing it and it is working. We are seeing a shift in giving people choices.
Thirdly, if Logan is so important to an airline and their system, let us preserve that capacity and talk about putting some much needed traffic into under-utilized resources that are very close to the center of Boston that the airlines are trying to serve.
Mr. MICA. Mr. Oberstar, if you would just allow me one continuation. I am sure there is a price difference between Worcester and Logan. Is that part of the incentive? I am trying to find something specific. I guess you have regional authority. You can control who can land, et cetera. That does it. Is there anything else?
Mr. KINTON. We did do some pricing. We paid for market studies. We would go to an airline headquarters and present them with a market analysis that we would pay for with our dollars and convince them there is a good reason to put flights into that regional airport and in some instances we also offered incentives such as no landing fees for a period of six months and no square foot rental for a period of six months, et cetera.
Page 75 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC They were putting their resources on the line to give it a try. We felt we needed to do something as well and not start charging them until we could prove the market.
Mr. RYAN. Could I comment, Mr. Chairman, just for about ten seconds?
Mr. MICA. Mr. Ryan, yes.
Mr. RYAN. The end result of some of the things that you are proposing today is to reduce the number of flights, not spread them out. Reduce the number of flights. You cannot reduce the number of flights at an airport, if you want to use the suggestion of congestion pricing, protect new entrants and protect small communities and freeze the schedule all at the same time.
I guess what I am asking you to consider is in a kind of an evolutionary process of a first step, which is H.R. 1407 that will allow multiple airlines at hubs to be able to talk with each other so that if, in fact, their banks are scheduled on top of each other, they will be able to move those apart. I think that is a worthwhile first step.
Mr. MICA. Well, I wasn't in favor of forcing a limitation of flights. The first suggestion was to get the airlines to voluntarily spread them out, because there is capacity even at our most congested points, maybe not at the time you want to arrive or land, but there is capacity.
Then we are looking at the scheduling assistance that we provided the airports so that they could coordinate where we have a conflict in particular. I am trying to avoid the nasty solutions to this and arbitrary government solutions and let the market sort of sort it out, but also see what incentives also we can provide.
So, I don't want you to go away from here thinking that I want to impose some restrictions on the number of flights arbitrarily.
The gentleman from Oregon had suggested the freeze. I didn't.
Page 76 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. Oberstar.
Mr. OBERSTAR. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I have always felt it appropriate when a Member is pursuing an important line of questioning he should pursue that line and take the time necessary.
Mr. MICA. It was a hot line.
Mr. OBERSTAR. Yes, it was an excellent line of questioning.
I think, Mr. Ryan, your comment just a moment ago is very important to this discussion, that any tinkering with capacity should not reduce flights, but rather spread them out in accordance with the available capacity at the airport.
I want to just take that thought a step further with Mr. Kinton. The benchmarking study does not take into account en route system improvements. It does not take into account taxiway improvements or landside improvements. Those all have an effect upon capacity, lesser on landside. But it does mean people can get to their flights sooner if you can improve the landside.
Has Massport done an analysis to increase those factors in its capacity evaluation at Logan?
Mr. KINTON. Yes, we have, Mr. Congressman. The $3 billion effort involves upgrading of our roadway systems, our terminals, making them larger, adding gates to the extent we can. We are very gate constrained, but we are adding a half dozen gates under the modernization effort.
Part of the air side proposal does not only include a runway, but it includes a system of taxiway improvements as well as a new midfield taxiway, all designed to accommodate more efficient movements on the ground once an aircraft has landed or once an aircraft is pushed back from the gate.
When the modeling is said and done, it improves taxiway delay time and also improves air quality on our airport as a result of those improvements.
Page 77 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. OBERSTAR. I was pleased to hear your response to the Chairman's question. It was a longer question, but you addressed the matter of regional airports. You cited Worcester as an example of enhancing valuable capacity at Logan by bringing aircraft into Worcester and saving that valuable Logan capacity for long haul domestic and international service. I think that is very good. That is certainly an issue that our colleague, Mr. McGovern, has raised many times, to see the capacity of Worcester enhanced as a way of relieving pressure on Logan. I am glad to hear that Massport is actively engaged in making those conscious decisions to move traffic to lesser-used facilities.
Mr. KINTON. Thank you.
Mr. OBERSTAR. Mr. Ryan, you were at FAA in those glory days in the 1980s when the airlines had what was called then limited anti-trust immunity to discuss scheduling. What lessons did you learn or could you share with us from that experience that we might apply to the pending legislation, which will be the subject of tomorrow's hearing?
I am asking you to look ahead, but you have the experience. You were there. I keep in mind Mr. Plavin's comment that his concern is that it might enshrine the haves over the have-nots.
Mr. RYAN. Well, I guess what I learned from the 1986 and later exercises, the first one being the Crystal City exercise that we did on five or six airports in collaboration with the Air Transport Association is that the important thing and I certainly don't want to get into the position of laying out the procedures and the process that the Secretary, by virtue of your bill, would be given to layout what the process is.
But when you are doing one of these exercises at an airport that had not been under slot control such as Atlanta or DFW, which we did, and Newark for a little while which we did following the August 1981 strike, I think the process is good where the government lays out what they believe to be the desired goal for a time period during a day at a specific airport. Then those carriers who are involved in that specific timeframe look at the goal and see wherein they can move flights out of that particular area to other areas in the day.
Page 78 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC After the process was understood by both the marketing and operations people at the airline and with the patience of FAA and ATA as kind of the co-leaders of the process, I think a lot of good headway was made in a voluntary fashion by airlines at Atlanta, DFW. I think we did some good work at O'Hare.
Where you have, as I mentioned before, where you have multi-airline hubs seems to me to be the place where the most benefit is going to accrue from this process.
Mr. OBERSTAR. Was it your experience that the airlines left to their own devices could not do this unless they could talk with each other under the cover of anti-trust immunity?
Mr. RYAN. Well, where you have two airlines that are competing at a hub and they are hubbing and scheduling banks throughout the day, whether it is five or six, it is difficult not to schedule a part of them on top of each other.
To some extent, even after the exercise is over, some part of an arrival bank from one airline might overlap a departure bank from another, which might be the better of the situation rather than having two parts of an arrival bank happening at the same time.
But you will definitely see benefits from having the airlines being able to talk to each other in a public way. What I mean by ''public way'' is not the public, but those who are interested in the process, the communities, certainly the airport authorities and the local regional authorities who need to know what is going on in this process in an open way. So, I think there are benefits to be gained.
Mr. OBERSTAR. We have heard about the initiatives by Delta and American unilaterally to make schedule adjustments. I think you have made reference to other carriers who are considering doing the same. What is the limitation on carriers doing that kind of schedule adjustment on their own?
Mr. RYAN. Well, in the case of American at DFW, they actually zeroed out a mini-hub that they had at DFW, so that kind of flattened out their schedule there last fall.
Page 79 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC At O'Hare, in order that the delays that were happening at O'Hare last summer were not propagated to five or six or seven destinations throughout the day in a linear pattern, many of the flights of American Airlines and United would depart from O'Hare, go to another destination and then come back to O'Hare.
So, if some delay was accrued on that flight, it would kind of be in this closed loop with O'Hare, the destination and back, rather than propagating it all the way to San Francisco and showing up an hour late there because of other reasons not having to do with scheduling, having to do with local weather or convective weather between O'Hare and the east coast airports.
Certainly Continental has worked at Newark to smooth out their schedule and it is a continuing thing. But Continental is only 60 percent of the process at Newark. So, the work that they do will affect 60 percent of that process, but sometimes competitors will move in when you start to smooth out.
As I indicated, the Continental process at Newark and others at Newark have resulted in some modicum of delay reduction in the first quarter of 2001 from 7300 delays last year to 5800 this year. That is one of the airports that is going in the opposite and right and correct direction, which is about a 20 percent reduction. So, I think that is good work also.
Mr. OBERSTAR. That is a very pertinent point-that competitors will move in when you start to smooth out and then you are back into the disruption. I think that is why we need this authority. That is a very, very keen analysis.
Mr. Plavin, one issue we haven't talked about is gate-constrained airports, if I may call them that. There are some that have adequate runway capacity, but don't have enough gates to handle the aircraft. DFW is one of them. They are addressing it with additional terminal capacity.
Are there other circumstances at airports where gate capacity is an issue?
Page 80 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. PLAVIN. I think that is certainly true. It is especially true in a place that is likely to be an airline hub. If your airport has many banks during the course of a day and there are disruptions to the schedule, whether they are for weather or any other reason, it is not at all uncommon for people to arrive at an airport and then not have a gate.
But in some ways that is also a function of the scheduling practices that are attributable to hub airports. The problem, I think, with gates has been and will continue to be that our underlying regulatory structure makes it very difficult for airports to build gates in anticipation of demand, because we have no way to pay for them.
PFCs were a great contribution to that and I think continue to be. But beyond PFCs, if they are already spoken for, the problem is that if you don't have any airline on the hook, on the lease, you can't build them on spec because you won't get your money back and you have no way to pay for them since you are not allowed to charge the non-users for the cost of that gate.
I think we could make a major contribution in that respect if we could make gate development similar to other kinds of development in the way it could be paid for by the broad array of airport users. It would also make it possible for airports to build them in order to attract new entrants into the system because right now a new entrant can't come in unless he wants to build his own gates. Only if he can build his own gates will he be able to come in.
So, I think we are chasing our own tail here. I think that the Congress and FAA and DOT could help this process by giving us some more regulatory latitude in how we would go about financing and building gates in anticipation of demand, not just in response to demand.
Mr. OBERSTAR. You are quite right about that point. It was an issue that we deliberated on eleven years ago in the PFC initial legislation. I insisted that the airport have authority to build gates without majority-in-interest-clause interference by airlines.
Page 81 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC But the other side of that coin is that they do have to recapture the cost of building the gate. If you don't have a customer, it is like builders, you cannot build houses on spec forever. Somewhere along the line you have to have a customer for it to pay for it.
This is not the forum in which to pursue the issue further, but I would like your thoughts about what steps we might take, what authority we might give to airports to alleviate that pressure to recoup within some certain timeframe the cost of building that gate in order to attract competition or create additional capacity.
Mr. Coyne, you said that at our busiest airports runways are under-utilized by at least 30 percent. Do you have a listing that you would like to submit for the committee of those airports and runways and any suggestions about what further might be done beyond your testimony to address that under-utilization?
Mr. COYNE. Well, if I were running a business and I had a situation where I had a forecast of 89 percent of 75 percent growth over the next decade and I had a manufacturing process that was at capacity, I would set up everything I could do to develop ways to increase that capacity to meet the growing demand.
Unfortunately, right now the FAA has a disjointed or disorganized way of trying to develop technologies to deal with growing demand.
On the one hand you have some good people at the Atlantic City Research Center who are working by themselves. You have people at the management at DFA who are discussing issues with their consultants like Mitre and others and by themselves.
You have the air traffic controllers pretty much over by themselves as well. It seems to me that the only way that we are going to determine how much unused capacity that there is at runways it is not just a function of the runway and the current number of planes that are landing there. It is what can be done to bring airplanes in more quickly, more frequently into an existing runway.
Page 82 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I think it is really a research imperative of the FAA right now, at the highest level, working with the controllers and working with people in the technology world.
Forty years ago we came up with the ILS technology which required aircraft to be equipped and required airports to be equipped. The government directed the two entities to meet this capacity and safety requirement.
I think in a similar way at some point in the next ten years the government, through Congress' direction, will require both the aviation users and the airports to implement technologies that increase the capacity of current runways. This can be done safely.
You know the capability of technology today. We could very easily link the flight management systems of different airplanes with one another through data links so that each airplane knew where every other airplane was, its speed, its altitude, its time at which it is going to hit the runway based upon its weight load, its fuel load, the temperature and calculate how much runway it would need. Add in a factor of safety of 30, 40 or 50 percent and easily calculate a way in terms of timing the arrival of aircraft much more specifically than what we do now.
We essentially have a system now where the timing between aircraft is almost random. There really is no you will see one plane arriving 40 seconds after the one in front of it and the next plane arriving a minute and a half after the one in front of it.
It is largely a function of a lot of random variables that have been brought together. If we simply calculate what is the minimum amount of time between arriving airplanes and departing airplanes that we do now, the minimum time and extrapolate that. Let us say instead of only ten percent of the aircraft arrivals and departures meeting that standard, let us have 80 percent of them meet that standard. Then you will very quickly reach the calculation that we are under-utilizing our airports by 30 or 40 percent each and every runway.
That doesn't even touch the question of intersecting runways, which was touched upon earlier, which vastly was understated in this report. I mean to see the number that they have for Phoenix, for example, of only 60 arrivals or departures in an hour in inclement weather is absurd because you have a perfectly capable airport there with lots of good runways. You could easily have a dedicated departure runway and a dedicated arrival runway in the worst of weather conditions there and easily exceed 60 arrivals or 70 arrivals.
Page 83 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC So, I think that in many respects these numbers are bogus numbers. We may be being sandbagged by the current status quo, those who are happy with the status quo. It is a little bit like me telling myself, well, I have got to lose some weight and I am going to give you a starting point of 300 pounds. Anything you lose less than 300 pounds, you are a winner. Well, I think in many respects these numbers are the same kind of sandbagging the system to make it look like improvements in the future occur when they may not really occur.
Mr. OBERSTAR. I think you may be overstating the ability to establish models because there are a number of variables that are not included in your assumptions there.
Mr. COYNE. Well, I was just giving you an example.
Mr. OBERSTAR. I think we can come back to this issue when WAAS is in place, when anti-trust immunity has been in place for a while and the airlines have come together and made decisions, and when we have increased gate and runway capacity, and then see whether this report measures up to the real life situation.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for an excellent hearing. I thank all the members of this panel for their very thoughtful responses.
Mr. MICA. Well, I want to thank our panelists. I don't have any additional questions at this time. We appreciate the associations coming forward and providing us with their testimony and also the Massachusetts authority. We appreciate your coming down and providing us with your insight.
It is certainly going to be the topic of discussion and consideration as we try to move forward and find solutions to the problems that we have. We look forward to working with you in the future.
We are going to keep the record open for a period of ten days.
There being no further business to come before the Subcommittee on Aviation, this meeting is adjourned.
Page 84 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC [Whereupon, at 4:55 p.m. the subcommittee was recessed, to reconvene at 11:00 am, Thursday, April 26, 2001.]
Statement by Congressman Jerry F. Costello
Mr. Chairman, thank you for calling today's hearings. I would like to welcome today's witnesses.
As we all know, passengers traveling via air has increased significantly in the past 20 years. Unfortunately, delays have increased substantially as well. One reason for this is that our aviation infrastructure simply can't match demand. The runway capacity at our major airports is just not there.
The FAA has developed benchmarks for 31 of our most-heavily used airports. Benchmarks are defined as the maximum number of flights an airport can routinely handle in an hour; but, it should be noted that the benchmarks represent only a small number of the many possible scenarios for runway capacity.
The FAA's benchmarks represent a good starting point as we continue to explore how to increase capacity at our nation's airports. With the increase of funds provided by AIR21, airports' infrastructure should be improved. I would also like to remind airlines that there are many reliever airports around the nation which do not face congestion problems and could be better utilized. I look forward to the testimony of today's witnesses.
Statement of James K. Coyne, President, National Air Transportation Association
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Mr. Chairman, Ranking Minority Member Lipinski, and other members of the Subcommittee, my name is James K. Coyne, and I am the president of the National Air Transportation Association (NATA). NATA represents nearly 2,000 aviation businesses that own, operate and service aircraft. These companies provide for the needs of the traveling public by offering services and products to aircraft operators and others such as fuel sales, aircraft maintenance, aircraft parts sales, airline servicing, aircraft storage, flight training, Part 135 non-scheduled air charter, aircraft rental, and scheduled commuter operations in smaller aircraft. NATA members are the vital link in the aviation industry that provides services to the general public, airlines, general aviation, and the military.
I appear before the Subcommittee today to address the growing concern from the general aviation community about capacity benchmarks and the new buzzword of the day, ''demand management.'' There has been considerable discussion recently about congestion at U.S. airports and what can be done to eliminate these delays and improve efficiency. Individuals have even suggested that general aviation should be excluded from some of the biggest and most important airports in the country. I suggest that the advocates of capacity benchmarks concentrate less on ways of defining the limits on airports and, instead, focus their efforts on inventing new ways to accommodate their needs for all airport users.
Attempts to quantify the congestion problem at our nation's busiest airports in the form of capacity benchmarks are a well-meaning but fundamentally flawed initiative. The term ''benchmark'' suggests that room exists in the algorithms designed to produce these magical numbers, but we all know that within a few weeks these benchmarks will become hard and fast ceilings in the minds of airport opponents and others who want to misuse these unsuspecting little numerals.
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These numbers are not only dangerous, they are incorrect. They are based on current airport use methodology and existing FAA culture that has not promoted procedures to increase airport capacity in over a decade. In fact, recent changes in our airspace structure and separation standards have actually reduced capacity at many airportsand despite prodding from Congress and various user groups, FAA employees still have no direct incentives to increase the utilization of existing concrete. Publishing official capacity benchmarks at a time when congestion and delays are so prominent will only enshrine the system's current mediocrity as a new standard of acceptable performance.
The official government position appears to be that it's too hard to increase the capacity of existing runways, and many bureaucrats bristle at the idea that improving runway utilization should even be considered. Yet during the recent FAA Forecast Conference here in Washington, D.C., it was predicted that over the next decade airline enplanements will increase by 45%, cargo ton-miles by 64%, regional/commuter enplanements by 72%, and general aviation turbojet activity by 89%. With less than a dozen major runways being built in the foreseeable future, it is essential that we find ways to increase capacity on the runways that we already have at our airports.
In almost any other industry faced with explosive and predictable growth, there would be scores of initiatives to meet rising demand, and research labs from coast to coast would be working overtime to find how to safely get more takeoffs and landings from every mile of concrete currently in place at airports. Yet, we now hear a call for something very different, ''demand management.''
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Spend an afternoon, as I have, at the end of a runway at one of our congested airports and time the takeoffs and landings with a stopwatch to see how much ''concrete time'' is truly being wasted. You will quickly calculate that even our busiest runways are underutilized by at least 30%. At many high-activity airports, you'll also find an unused cross runway that most general aviation pilots could easily accept without interfering with the traffic on the main runways.
But rather than being seen as part of the solution, general aviation is perceived as part of the problem. I fnid it ironic that airport authorities and the airlines, the very segments of aviation that got us in this congested mess in the first place, point their fingers at general aviation as the easiest way to eliminate their congestion.
RECOGNITION OF NATIONAL AIR TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM
NATA recently released a report entitled ''American Aviation Access InitiativeProviding All Americans With Access to Air Transportation'' that demonstrates how access to our nation's air transportation network for a community translates directly to good jobs, affordable housing, quality modem medical care, and a clean environment. The individuals who live in towns and cities where the value of the airport is recognized clearly benefit in a better quality of life. For many communities, general aviation airports are the only readily accessible link to the national and international air transportation system and are a valuable economic resource. Shutting general aviation out at America's busiest airports eliminates the opportunity for these communities to be connected to this vital system.
Page 88 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCTECHNOLOGY UTILIZATION
If we want to maximize the use of existing runway infrastructure, we must modernize our understanding of who or what should control or manage the airspace of the future. Simply stated, there are three choices: the controller, the pilot, or a computer. The controller dominates our current system, the pilot is the icon of free-flight dreamers, and the computer is almost certainly the choice of destiny. Only computers can perform the millions of calculations per second that are needed to safely and accurately evaluate all the potential courses for thousands of aircraft across millions of miles of airspace.
NATA believes that an advanced traffic management system could provide dramatic benefits to all users including reducing delays and the need for capacity benchmarks. Clearly, airspace capacity would be increased exponentially, and runway utilization could be increased by fifty percent or more.
Another technology for which we must expand utilization is satellite-based systems to allow the aviation industry and the FAA capabilities to reach far beyond the current status quo. Direct routing for aircraft, increasing air traffic, conserving fuel, and safer precision landing capabilities at hundreds of airports currently without precision landing systems are possible with satellite technology.
Technology can and should be used to increase human productivity, and systems can and should be designed to maximize the utilization of capital investments. Progress means figuring how to get around the limits of yesterday. I believe it is time to use technology to create a more efficient air transportation system and reduce airport congestion and delays.
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Try as we might, there are some incontrovertible facts that we all must accept and accordingly learn to overcome. First, demand is going to increase significantly. Second, we simply will not be able to add new runways quickly enough to meet this demand at our nation's busiest airports. Third, the public's patience with delays will quickly vanish. Fourth, the current FAA culture provides very little incentive to increase the utilization of existing runways. Fifth, we have only scratched the surface in using technology to increase the capacity at our airports.
As I stated earlier in my testimony, we must stop thinking of ways to define the limits at our airports and, instead, think about inventing new ways of managing the flow of aircraft on and off our runways. I am completely supportive of pouring new concrete to create new runways, but we all must recognize that between now and then time simply will not stand still. If benchmarks are to be established, let's set them for where we should be at the end of the 21st century, not here and now, mired in the mediocrity of an uninspired status quo. Otherwise, the numbers will only tell us how much we disappoint the people who really count: a new generation of Americans who want to move up in the world and fly even more.
NATA appreciates the opportunity to testify. I would be pleased to respond to any questions.
STATEMENT OF JANE F. GARVEY, ADMINISTRATOR OF THE FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION
Page 90 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Chairman Mica, Congressman Lipinski, Members of the Subcommittee, it is a pleasure to appear before you today to discuss the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) report on airport capacity benchmarks. The information contained in this report was compiled with the participation of the airport community. Our hope is that this report will provide valuable data that will be used to assist the FAA, airports, airlines, and other system users in making informed decisions and investments that can ultimately help better manage the ever increasing demand for capacity, while at the same time minimizing unavoidable delays. Much of the information in the report documents what you, as frequent users of the system, probably know intuitively. But this information now provides all of us, Congress, the FAA, the airports, the airlines, and local communities, with a common set of metrics to measure the capacity of an airport. Our report documents that there are a handful of airports at which demand exceeds capacity and where, in adverse conditions, the resulting delays have impacts throughout the National Airspace System (NAS).
I would like to make it clear at the outset that it is important to keep capacity benchmarks in perspective. It is data to be used to better understand the relationship between airline demand and airport capacity and to achieve greater efficiency in the air traffic system. The benchmarks provide a relatively simple expression of a complex quantityairport capacity. They will also provide us with a mechanism to keep track of additional capacity enhancements system wide, and to highlight lingering problems. More needs to be done and is being done to improve air traffic efficiency. At the FAA, the benchmarks will provide useful information about the effectiveness of the technical and procedural enhancements for increasing capacity. We continue to work on tactical initiatives, such as our choke points initiative which addresses airspace congestion in the terminal and enroute environments, and free flight technologies, while at the same time we are developing strategic initiatives, such as airspace redesign.
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The FAA began working on capacity benchmarks last October. Following the peak travel season of 2000, there was a great deal of reflection on what were the causes and solutions to the delays incurred. As you know, the FAA implemented a Spring/Summer plan last year and, while I think the initiatives we implemented were largely helpful, delays continued to be significant. Last fall, former Secretary Slater and I testified before this Committee to review the summer delay statistics and reflect on what, not only FAA, but airports and airlines could do cooperatively to improve the challenges posed by increasing demand and limited resources. At that time, the possibility of capacity benchmarks for individual airports was discussed. We have been gathering data ever since.
The United States has 546 airports with commercial airline service. Yet, in fiscal year 1999, seven out of ten airline passengers boarded planes at just 31 airports. This report provides capacity benchmarks at 30 of those airports. The 31st airport in the report, Memphis, was included for its importance to the air cargo industry. These airports represent fewer than 6% of our nation's commercial airports, but account for 70% of the airline traffic, and, most significantly, each one of these airports is expected to experience increased capacity demands.
I would like to take a moment to describe the methodology we used to compile the benchmark data. For each airport of the 31 airports we have established an optimal operational number; the number of hourly take offs and landings that can be accommodated in VFR (visual flight rules) conditions, or, more simply stated, in good weather. The second number is the number of hourly take offs and landings that can be accommodated in IFR (instrument flight rules) conditions, or where there is reduced visibility and radar is required to provide separation. The two numbers describe a realistic expectation of performance for that airport under given circumstances.
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The benchmark rates were determined in three ways. First, the air traffic team at each airport, including members of NATCA and managers at airport towers and TRACONs, provided numbers based on their collective experience. Second, the rates provided by the air traffic teams were compared to historical arrival and departure data to confirm that they represented the optimal performance at the airport. Finally, the rates were calculated using an FAA airfield capacity computer model. The computer model was then used to project the benchmarks 10 years in the future, showing the effects of new runways, where they are planned, and improved air traffic control technologies and procedures.
In order to validate the methodology, the project team visited six airports and discussed the data with local air traffic personnel, airport authorities, and the air carriers serving the airport. All 31 airports received detailed briefings on our findings and had the opportunity for additional input. Using FAA forecasts of the number of future flights, each benchmark was compared with the projected demand growth at that airport to understand the future balance between airline demand and airport capacity.
In general, the benchmarks do not consider any limitation on airport traffic that is not caused by runway constraints at that airport or elsewhere in the NAS. For example, taxiway or gate congestion at the airport, congestion at other airports, slots, and miles in trail restrictions were not factored into the benchmarks.
I think it might be helpful if I walked through the information we have compiled for two airports with significant demand challenges: Newark International Airport and Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport. I think these two examples will help you understand both the demand challenges facing each airport and their options for capacity enhancement. Last year, Newark was the second most delayed airport in the country, in terms of delay per flight. The current capacity benchmark for Newark is 92108 operations per hour in good weather. That drops to 7478 operations in adverse conditions. On average, for three hours every day, Newark's scheduled traffic exceeds the optimal (good weather) capacity benchmark, meaning that more than 92 operations per hour are scheduled, resulting in approximately 6% of flights being significantly (more than 15 minutes) delayed. In bad weather, there are seven and one-half hours a day where scheduled traffic exceeds the benchmark for adverse conditions, or more than 74 operations per hour are scheduled, resulting in 18% of flights being significantly delayed.
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Over the next ten years, technology and procedural changes are expected to improve Newark's capacity benchmark by 10% in good weather and 7% in bad weather. This capacity enhancement will be achieved in a number of ways. Short term, our choke point action items are expected to provide more efficient flows, greater access to overhead streams, and additional terminal airspace capacity. Free Flight technologies, such as the user request evaluation tool (URET), and the passive final approach spacing tool (pFAST), are already saving the airlines time and money at certain sites and will certainly help at Newark. Longer term, airspace redesign will restructure the airspace and routes into and out of the New York/New Jersey/ Philadelphia area to increase terminal airspace capacity and to provide more efficient routes. Improvements in avionics and the associated procedures will improve terminal airspace capacity and situational awareness, thus enhancing safety. This combination of initiatives is expected to provide the previously mentioned capacity increase of 10% over the next decade. However, during that same time period, demand is expected to increase by 20%. Consequently, absent any uncalculated intervention, delays at Newark are almost certain to increase. The tactical efforts that we have underway will provide some relief to the delay situation at Newark, but it is also clear that in the long term, there are serious challenges facing Newark.
Turning to Atlanta, we have a very different situation. While Atlanta faces significant demand challenges, (it was the 8th most delayed airport in the U.S. in 2000) it is in the process of building a new runway which will be completed in 2005. As you will see, this will make a big difference in Atlanta's ability to meet anticipated demands for capacity.
Today, Atlanta's optimal capacity benchmark is 185200 operations per hour. In bad weather, that is reduced to 167174 operations per hoar. Atlanta's current scheduled traffic meets or exceeds its good weather capacity benchmark for almost two hours every day. In bad weather, that increases to more than eight hours a day. In good weather, approximately 3% of its flights are significantly delayed. In bad weather that increases to 6%.
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The new runway alone will increase Atlanta's capacity benchmarks to 243258 operations in good weather (58 additional operations) and 212219 operations in bad weather (4345 additional operations). Additional technological and procedural changes over the next ten years will further increase that number to 254269 operations in good weather and 224231 operations in bad weather. Consequently, Atlanta will be well positioned to meet the anticipated 28% growth in demand over the next 10 years. The runway, in addition to the technological and procedural changes, will increase capacity by 37% in good weather and 34% in bad weather. While the technological and procedural improvements, including the implementation of Free Flight technologies and improvements in avionics, will provide capacity enhancements, the new runway is clearly responsible for the vast majority of the new capacity in Atlanta. Obviously, this situation stands in stark contrast to what we described in Newark.
As I've stated, this information is just thatinformation. By itself, it does not solve any problems. But using this information, the entire aviation community can make informed decisions about addressing the capacity at these airports and enhancing the efficiencies of the entire NAS. While FAA's ongoing initiatives will provide increased capacity, the increases are marginal when compared with the capacity increases provided by a new runway. That is not to say that our initiatives are not critical to the future of the NAS. But we must recognize that these initiatives in and of themselves will not solve our future capacity issues.
Capacity on the ground must be addressed. The good news is that at several of these top 30 airports, significant capacity projects are underway. Some projects, such as the new runway at Minneapolis/St. Paul, are currently under construction, and some, such as the project in San Francisco, are still undergoing environmental review. As required by section 310 of AIR21, we are preparing a report to Congress that will contain an analysis of the environmental processes in place as well as recommendations on appropriate streamlining.
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I think it is important to understand our many ongoing efforts to address the challenges posed by congestion. This report documents that we are faced with very challenging capacity issues. We have developed action plans for eight of the airports. These eight airports represent the biggest challenges in the NAS. When they suffer delays, the entire system is affected. Each of the eight airports is unique, and new runways are not an option for all of them. It is our hope that, working with our partners in the aviation community, implementing these action plans will maximize the growth of capacity and increase efficiencies in the system.
In addition, we need to have a long term plan in place to address these issues. The FAA, with the cooperation of the aviation industry, has developed a comprehensive 10 year National Airspace System Operational Evolution Plan (OEP) that reflects our many coordinated efforts to improve safety, and increase terminal and enroute airspace efficiencies and system capacity. This effort is truly a collaborative one. If there is one thing we have learned in the past few years, it is that the FAA, airlines, airportsthe entire aviation communityall own a portion of the delay problem and must work together closely on solutions to that problem. I am convinced that only through continued and expanded collaboration will real progress be achieved.
Mr. Chairman, I know that this Committee is as committed as I am to finding the solutions to the capacity challenges we are facing. I also know that my counterparts in the aviation industry share our commitment. It is my hope that as we continue to work together on these challenges, the information provided by the capacity benchmarks will prove to be helpful in achieving our shared goals.
Page 96 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC This concludes my prepared statement. I will be happy to answer any questions at this time.
Remarks of Thomas J. Kinton
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee on Aviation.
For the record I am Thomas Kinton, Director of Aviation for the Massachusetts Port Authority which owns and operates Boston's Logan International Airport.
Logan Airport is currently undergoing a $3 billion renovation, the largest in the airport's 77-year history. Federal support for Logan Modernization is an integral part of Logan's revitalization. I want to thank you, Mr. Chairman, and the members of this committee, for overcoming significant obstacles to pass AIR21, which sent the nation's airports more federal funding than we have ever received before.
I also want to thank the committee for giving me the opportunity this afternoon to discuss the FAA Capacity Benchmark Report and to talk about our efforts in Boston to improve airfield efficiency, ease flight delays, and improve operational safety for the traveling public at Logan Airport by adding a new runway.
As we work together to find solutions to the nation's air delay crisis, I want to commend the FAA for undertaking a capacity study that will help us to better identify problems, evaluate options and establish priorities.
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According to the FAA's own forecast, 23 million more people a year will be flying into New England by the year 2010. That's the equivalent of adding another Logan Airport. Since we are never going to build another Logan Airport in New England, Massport is helping to handle increased demand by strengthening the New England regional airport system, supporting high-speed rail, and moving forward with our proposal for a new runway at Logan. Runway 14/32 addresses a significant cause of delay at Logan, which are northwest wind conditions that can reduce the airport from three operational runways to as few as oneand cut operations from 120 an hour down to as low as 60 per hour
We have reviewed the FAA's Draft Capacity Benchmark Report for Logan International Airport. The report confirms the need for an additional runway at Logan Airport by documenting that Logan is a structurally deficient airport. The FAA's report certifies Logan's good weather capacity at between 118 to 126 flights per hour. Yet, the lack of available runways makes it physically impossible for Logan to achieve its FAA-designated capacity during northwest wind conditions. And these conditions are responsible for about one-third of all delays at Logan.
The FAA's benchmark report recognizes that Boston Logan is one of the nation's most delayed airports. For delayed flights per 1,000 operations in 2000, this report ranks Logan 5th worst for delays. The report also concludes:
Traffic peaks at Boston can be accommodated today under good weather conditions;
During adverse weather conditions, particularly during strong northwest winds, delays accumulate rapidly when Logan operates below its good weather capacity;
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Construction of a new runway won't increase Logan's good weather capacity but will eliminate a significant number of delays caused by adverse weather; and
Other taxiway improvements will improve Logan's efficiency.
The report also recommends new technology and procedural improvements that will make Logan more reliable during good and low visibility conditions. We find these conclusions consistent with our own technical analysis and support these findings.
Other actions suggested for reducing delays at Logan are regionalizing demand and instituting some form of congestion pricing.
We support both options. Massport stands ready to enact congestion pricing if air carriers over-schedule Logan's good weather capacity.
And, as I mentioned earlier, Massport already has a strong leadership role in directing more of Logan's traffic to existing, nearby regional airports.
The numbers speak for themselves. In the mid-1990s, eight out of 10 new passengers in New England flew out of Logan. But by the late 1990s, eight out of 10 new passengers were flying out of regional airports. This startling turnaround was not achieved easily, as airports more accostumed to competing with one another had to be convinced of the shared benefits available to airports that cooperated with one another as part of an integrated aviation system.
Page 99 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Massport continues to work aggressively with our airport counterparts to keep this trend going. In fact, a measure of our commitment to this effort is evident in the direct connection that exists between Massport's regionalization initiatives and our proposed new runway for Logan. The runway proposal, which is currently under review by the FAA and state regulators, requires Massport to continue developing regional alternatives to Logan as a condition of building the new runway for Logan.
Continued regionalization of air traffic is specifically offered as mitigation for the runway project. But the specific connection between regionalization and the runway also reflects Massport's well-established commitment to match vital improvements to operations at Logan with measures that ease Logan's traffic burden on surrounding neighborhoods.
Runway 14/32 has a long history. As part of a national effort to improve airport capacity, the FAA in 1992 listed construction of a new runway at Logan Airport among the key items necessary to ensure that Logan does not become a permanent liability to the National Aviation System.
Even earlier than that, Massport first tried to build a new runway at Logan 30 years ago, but community opposition produced a court injunction that remains in effect today. While Logan's airfield has remained unchanged since the late 1960s, passenger volumes have nearly tripled and the number of annual operations has gone up more than 150 percent.
While the runway project was stalled, the experience of trying to build it did change the way Logan deals with its neighbors. Logan today has a nationally-recognized record of working with our surrounding communities. It leads the nation in residential soundproofing. It was the first airport in the country to apply for FAA grants to sound-insulate schools and homes in the mid-1980s, and has spent $100 million with federal financing to soundproof more than 6,700 dwelling units and 35 schools. Massport spent $17 million to build a waterfront park for our host community and negotiated a community mitigation agreement worth more than $50 million for community projects, airport buffers, and mass transportation commitments.
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Just this year we developed a plan that would make Logan the first airport in the country to charge airlines and airport tenants a fee to be used to reduce smog-causing pollutants at the airport and in the surrounding city.
No doubt, the environmental standards that now exist are high, and the review process airports must negotiate for constructing new runways is more demandingand rightly so. The burden of proof is on us, and we have successfully met that burden. Runway 14/32 is a good project. It moves air traffic more smoothly, reduces aircraft noise in many parts of Boston, sends as many as 75,000 flights a year over Boston Harbor, makes over-the-water landings and takeoffs the number one operation at Logan, reduces pollution produced by planes circling the airport, and lets air traffic controllers distribute air traffic more fairly around the airport.
These facts are contained in the final environmental impact report on Logan's new Runway 14/32 that Massport has filed with Massachusetts' regulators, and the Supplemental Draft EIS on the runway that we have filed with the FAA. These filings begin the final phase of a six-year review process that we hope will end later this summer with a final Record of Decision from the FAA.
Believe me, I am very, very sensitive to the concerns of the communities surrounding Logan, and so is the Governor of Massachusetts who supports the new runway. But we are also ever mindful of the transportation and safety needs that are also at stake here.
In sum, Massport's multi-pronged program for improving operations at Logan Airport consists of modernizing Logan's landside facilities, investing in Logan's airfield, aggressively regionalizing demand and, if necessary, implementing congestion pricing. The FAA's Benchmarking Report accurately reflects operational conditions at Logan International Airport. By certifying Logan's capacity at between 118 and 126 operations per hour, the report establishes a solid foundation for those remedial actions that are necessary to make Logan a more reliable airport to fly in to and out of.
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Thank you. I will be happy to take questions.
Opening Statement of The Honorable James L. Oberstar
Today we continue a series of hearings held by our Full Committee and this Subcommittee to explore ways to reduce congestion and delays in our aviation system.
As we proceed with these hearings, we must always bear in mind that the causes of aviation delays are complex. They include not only the capacity of airport runways, but also the capacity of the air traffic control (ATC) system to accommodate aircraft en route and in terminal areas. Even if airline schedules do not exceed runway capacity, flights will be delayed if there is congestion in the en-route airspace near the airport.
In all parts of the ATC system, capacity is dynamic. It varies with changes in the weather, such as high winds, fog and thunderstorms.
In addition, we are dealing with an interrelated system in which delays in one part of the system can create bottlenecks that affect arrivals and departures at cities far distant from the bottleneck. The President of Mitre recently gave a presentation to FAA in which he described how five flights headed for Newark, which exceeded Newark's capacity, could quickly create a bottleneck in the enroute airspace controlled by the Cleveland Center, escalating into delays for 250 aircraft from Minneapolis to Indianapolis.
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Of course, not all delays are attributable to the capacity of the ATC system. Delays can also result from inadequate taxiways or gate space at airports, runway crossing problems, mechanical problems, or the lack of available flight crews, to cite just a few examples.
Today, we will consider one important piece of the puzzle, runway capacity. We will focus on FAA's just-released report on runway capacity at our nation's 30 busiest airports. The report shows what we have long known intuitively, and from prior FAA capacity standardsthat the airlines have a propensity to build delays into the system by scheduling more flights than runways can accommodate at peak hours.
In its new study, FAA establishes two benchmarks for airport capacity: one for optimal conditions, assuming unlimited ceiling and visibility and no adverse winds; and as a second benchmark, a reduced capacity level, assuming adverse weather conditions.
The FAA study shows that, at a few of the top thirty airports, schedules exceed optimum capacity for several hours a day. At perhaps half of the top thirty airports, the schedules exceed the reduced-rate capacity for 2 to 8 hours a day. LaGuardia is a special case, and schedules there exceed both optimum and reduced rate capacity for most of the day.
The preliminary conclusion I draw from this data is that intelligent shifting of schedules at peak hours can reduce delays. But, I do not regard reallocation of schedules as the primary solution to delays. If schedules are reduced to optimal capacity, only a relatively small number of flights at a few airports will be shifted or eliminated. It is doubtful that this will lead to major reductions in delays particularly when, as I will discuss, there is evidence that many delays are not caused by scheduling in excess of runway capacity.
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Delays could be decreased if we reduced flights to the lower level of the benchmarks for reduced capacity. But we should be extremely cautious in urging elimination of flights that do not exceed the optimum capacity level. This step would mean the elimination of flights that could be handled in good conditions, and we would want to do this if only adverse conditions occur frequently and cause major problems.
In addition, the FAA's reduced-rate benchmark appears to be a worst-case scenario. There may be less reduction in capacity on days in which adverse conditions are less severe than FAA assumed. Before we seriously consider reductions in capacity below the optimum level, we need further studies to determine capacity levels at each airport on a daily basis so we can consider the benefits of reductions to different levels.
Ideally, any needed reductions in schedules could be accomplished by unilateral, voluntary action by the airlines. Some airlines are already stepping up to the plate to change their scheduling practices. Earlier this month, Delta unveiled its first major schedule restructuring in 17 years at its Atlanta hub. Delta increased from 10 to 12 the number of banks of connecting flights through Atlanta, which reduced the number of flights in each bank from 90 to 75.
Last fall, American Airlines launched new schedules at its Chicago O'Hare and Dallas/Fort Worth hubs. Aircraft originating Dallas, return to Dallas, rather than continuing on to another destination that may be hampered by weather. The new plan keeps sufficient aircraft moving in and out of Dallas, and prevents weather delays in Chicago from impacting routes that do not involve Chicago. I encourage all airlines to take similar steps to evaluate their contribution to congestion at particular airports and make schedule changes.
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As a further stepI am an original sponsor of H.R. 1407, The Airline Delay Reduction Act, which authorizes the airlines to hold discussions, with Department of Transportation oversight, on cutting back flights at times when scheduled operations exceed airport capacity. This bill will provide the airlines a tool that may be used in the short-term to redistribute operations at congested facilities until other airspace and airport capacity improvements are in place.
I would not favor a further step of using the FAA's benchmarks to impose a legal limit on flights. We have already had an unfortunate experience with this approach. In 1969, we placed capacity limits on hourly operations at the five high-density airports. This slot program, combined with the buy/sell rule, has had a long and sorry history of windfall profits to the carriers originally awarded the slots, and of high fares and restraints on competition when slot holders refused to sell slots at reasonable prices to new competitors, particularly those offering low-fare service. We must not repeat these mistakes by imposing slot controls at other airports.
If we were to go down the path of new slots, I can assure you that we would not allocate slots only to those airlines providing service when slots were imposed. Rather, slots would be distributed through a method that would ensure that this scarce resource would be allocated fairly to both large and small air carriers serving the widest array of communities, and that there would be no windfall profits to the airlines holding a public resource.
As I have said, shifting of schedules to runway capacity levels must not be the only means of alleviating congestion and delays. To handle flights without unreasonable delays there must be: (1) Realistic scheduling by air carriers; (2) efficient airspace design and effective throughput management; and (3) full use of AIR 21 funding to adequately and properly configure airport infrastructure. If all of these goals are achieved, then passengers will have trust in airline schedules and will better be able to make realistic plans.
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The FAA study gives a number of examples that show that schedule reductions to runway capacity levels will not solve all problems. San Diego is a good illustration. According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, during the year 2000 the greatest arrival and departure delays in San Diego occurred between 8:00 and 8:59 pm41.2% of flights that hour departed late, and 37.1% arrived late. However, the FAA study shows that arrivals and departures were scheduled at or below capacity during this period. At other hours of the day in San Diego, arrivals and departures were scheduled above capacity, but those schedules did not produce the greatest delays. Clearly adjustment of schedules to runway capacity will not solve San Diego's delay problem. The same is true for many others of the top 30 airports.
A major step towards reducing delays will be to increase the capacity of the ATC system en route and in ternuinal air space by improving ATC equipment and procedures. In the last Congress, we took a major step by passing the Aviation Investment and Reform Act (AIR 21), which greatly increased the federal funds to continue our ATC modernization efforts.
We need to also expedite efforts to improve ATC procedures. In the short run, we need to tinker with the system to remove choke points, as FAA is now doing. In the long run, more basic changes are needed. While the FAA has successffilly upgraded most of the equipment in the ATC facilities, the basic design of ATC has not changed since the installation of ground-based radios in the 1920s. Today's ATC procedures are all built on top of the original non-radar procedures from when the controllers tracked aircraft on paper and calculated their position through a difficult mental process (this remains the current back-up plan). When automation tools were added in the 1970s, the underlying procedures remained relatively unchanged. Reliance on a fixed-route system severely limits the capacity of the airspace.
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In addition, we also must not lose sight of the fact that over 70% of the flight delays are caused by weather. Unless adverse weather is the general rule at an airport, we would not want to schedule according to adverse weather conditions because precious capacity would then be wasted.
FAA has taken steps to limit the effects of adverse weather. FAA and the airlines now hold daily conference calls at regular intervals to discuss the day's ATC situation. In the summer months, when the delays ate greatest due to adverse weather, the routine calls ate supplemented by hourly discussions. I challenge those who claim that FAA needs to be more responsive to its so-called customersthe airlinesto demonstrate what more could be done without compromising safety.
Beginning a few months ago, the FAA and industry begin sharing weather information. Previously, the airlines considered their weather systems and data proprietary information. The air carriers' weather equipment was, in some cases, more sophisticated than that of the FAA, which uses the National Weather Service. The Herndon Command Center now coordinates the sharing of weather information from all sources. By looking at the collective data, FAA and industry have a better picture of the weather systems, which has improved the decision-making during the daily conference calls.
AIR 21 also authorized unprecedented funding for airport infrastructure$40 billion over three years. However, we must not limit our long-term planning for capacity growth by assuming that pouring concrete is the only solution to airport congestion. New runways will only get us part of the way. We must also ensure the certification of new runway technology to keep pace with growing demand, particularly in adverse weather. As the benchmark study illustrates, new runway technology and procedures on the horizon are expected to significantly enhance capacity. At Miami International Airport, for example, the new runway alone would only increase capacity by 10% in good weather, and 20% in adverse weather. Once ADSB and FMS/RNAV are in place, runway capacity is expected to be enhanced by a total 24% in good weather, and 27% in adverse weather. The same is true for Denver. The runway slated to open in Denver in 2003 is expected to improve capacity by 18% in good weather, and 4% in adverse weather. Once ADSB, FMS/RNAV and pFAST are in place, runway capacity is expected to increase to 25% in good weather, and 17% in adverse weather.
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Building a runway without consideration of other delay causes will limit its effectiveness in relieving congestion. If the airlines over-schedule, if the airspace is inefficiently designed and unable to handle additional fights, or if the remaining airside and landside airport infrastructure is unable to accommodate any growth, the new concrete will be of limited value. FAA's estimates of the increased capacity that an airport can handle as a result of a particular runway project do not take these additional variables into account.
We are now a nation dependent on air carriers the way we have long been dependent on our automobiles. In aviation, we need to strike a balance in which delays are reduced to tolerable levels but do not place excessive limitations on schedules, thereby causing major small community service reductions and skyrocketing fares.
In sum, we have a lot of work to do to relieve congestion in the airspace and at airports. It cannot be achieved by dealing only with a single element of airspace or airport capacity, such as runway capacity. We must all work together to find the root causes of delay and develop real short-term and long-term solutions.
I look forward to hearing today's testimony.
Statement of David Z. Plavin, President, Airports Council International-North America on Behalf of Airports Council International-North American and the American Association of Airport Executives
Page 108 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Chairman Mica, Ranking Member Lipinski, and members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation, thank you for inviting me to participate in today's hearing on the Federal Aviation Administration's capacity benchmarks. I am testifying today on behalf of the Airports Council International-North America and the American Association of Airport Executives.
ACINA represents local, regional and state governing bodies that own and operate commercial airports in the United States and Canada. AAAE is the world's largest professional organization representing the men and women who manage the primary, commercial service, reliever and general aviation airports. On behalf of all our members, I appreciate this opportunity to discuss ways that we can work together to reduce flights delays and cancellations.
I would like to begin by thanking Representative John Duncan, the former Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation, and Ranking Member Bill Lipinski for their tireless work on H.R. 1000, the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century (AIR21). Needless to say, passage of that legislation would not have been possible without their diligence and the leadership of the former Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Bud Shuster, and Ranking Member James Oberstar.
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't congratulate Chairman John Mica on his new position. His knowledge of aviation issues and commitment to improving the transportation system for his constituents in Florida and people throughout the country will serve him well as he leads the Subcommittee on Aviation. All of us at ACINA and AAAE look forward to working with him and the other Members of the Subcommittee on the challenges facing the aviation industry.
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One only needs to read a newspaper or watch television news from time to time to know that the combination of airline delays and the lack of airport capacity is the biggest problem facing the aviation industry today. Stories on passengers demanding better customer service and fed up with delayed and cancelled flights seem to appear on a daily basis. Unfortunately, flight delays and cancellations in the short- and long-term are expected to rise with the busy summer months just around the corner and the overall number of passengers using the aviation system expected to grow to more than a billion by the end of the decade.
What isn't recited nearly enough is the enormous impact that commercial aviation has on our economy. When travel on commercial aircraft is unreliable for business travelers and when companies are unsure that the products they send by air will arrive at their destination on time, our economy suffers. The fact that the Subcommittee is holding a hearing today on capacity benchmarks is a symptom of an aviation system that lacks the necessary capacity. That is why ACINA and AAAE have developed an initiative to improve the environmental approval process for projects that would enhance capacity and reduce delays at the nation's busiest airports.
The capacity benchmarks developed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will help us plan for the future. FAA Administrator Jane Garvey and her staff deserve credit for providing all of us with these capacity benchmarks and informing airports about how the agency reached its calculations. This is a planning tool that airports, airlines, the FAA and Congress have never had before, and it will help all of us to better understand our aviation system.
But capacity benchmarks are something of a misnomer. They are not really measuring capacity the way that term is usually conceived. Capacity varies widely depending on the weather, mix of aircraft types, and patterns of aircraft arrivals and departure. Capacity also varies depending on the mix of aircraft noise, noise abatement procedures in effect, the direction and intensity of the wind and numerous other factors.
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The current ability of air traffic controllers to handle traffic at each of the airports studied is accepted as a given. By contrast, the capacity measurements released today are the levels of flight activity the controllers think they can handle without significant delays in good weather. In instrument conditions the number and configuration of runways and taxiways diminish the throughput to a greater or lesser degree. Airport capacity depends on the level of service. One can get significant increases in the numbers of flights if one is willing to accept deterioration in reliability, greater congestion and delay. And some delays, such as making sure connecting flights wait for connecting passengers, are actually useful to travelers.
Moreover, some level of delay in certain situations may be a reflection of our commitment to making the maximum use of the capacity. We have had delays in the system for many years and have accepted some level of delay. I recently read an article in the Journal of Law and Economics entitled, ''Landing Fees and the Airport Congestion Problem.'' The article begins by saying:
''We are told by the press, the government, the airlines, the airport operators themselves, and a host of others that our airports are in a state of ''crisis,'' with worse to come. Caught between a massive upsurge in demand and desperate shortage of funds, they are said to be in danger of becoming immobilized in a tangle of runway, ramp, terminal and access congestion.''
Michael E. Levine wrote the article when he was an Assistant Professor of Law at the University of Southern California Law Center in 1969. Many of you may be familiar with Mr. Levine. He served on the Civil Aeronautics Board and is currently a faculty member at the Harvard School of Law. Although the article was written over 30 years ago, Mr. Levine's writings illustrate the fact that problems associated with airline delays and capacity are not new to the United States.
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Mr. Levine pointed out in his article that the number of passengers using the aviation system in 1967 was 127 million. Last year there were approximately 684 million passengers using the system, and that number is expected to increase to over a billion by 2010. Like the number of passengers, flight delays and cancellations are also on the rise. Flight delays increased 58 percent between 1995 and 1999, and flight cancellations increased 68 percent during the same five-year period. Unfortunately, the year 2000 was even worse. The Department of Transportation (DOT) reported that 1 in 4 flights were delayed, cancelled or diverted last year affecting approximately 163 million passengers.
Unfortunately, delays and cancellations are expected to rise as the number of passengers using the aviation system skyrockets from approximately 694 million to more than a billion by the end of the decade. However, the construction of new runways hasn't been keeping pace with increased demand. Only six new runways were added to large hubs in the past decade. Although a number of additional runway projects are now planned, the process for reviewing and approving these projects threatens to delay their construction.
The fact is many of the nation's busiest airports simply don't have the capacity to accommodate today's traffic let alone the crush of activity projected for the immediate future. In its 1998 Aviation Capacity Enhancement Plan, the FAA cited twenty-seven airports that are seriously congested, experiencing more than 20,000 hours of delay annually. FAA forecasts indicate that unless airport capacity investments are made, the number of seriously congested airports will grow to thirty-one by 2007.
Congress took a giant step toward addressing the capacity crisis last year with the passage of AIR21, which provided significant increases in capital funding for airports and air traffic control modernization. Thanks to the efforts of this Subcommittee, the $3 billion annual investment gap that plagued airports during the previous decade has been reduced significantly. Fully funding the Airport Improvement Program in fiscal year 2002 at $3.3 billion will provide further help.
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While continued federal support is a must, the most serious challenge today in enhancing capacity lies in putting additional resources to work as quickly as possible on critical projects such as runway construction at the nation's most congested airports. Unfortunately, the process for approving these proposals routinely gets bogged down in a seemingly endless maze of overlapping, duplicative and onerous environmental reviews. Runway projects routinely take ten years from start to finish and many take longer.
As the General Accounting Office pointed out during a hearing before this Subcommittee last year, overlapping federal and state environmental requirements can delay airport projects ''without necessarily providing commensurate environmental benefits.'' The problem is also becoming more evident throughout the aviation industry. Several airline CEOs and a number of other groups have recently voiced support for quickening the process to approve new runways.
From the standpoint of water and air quality, noise, and other environmental concerns, it matters little whether the process of moving the project forward takes weeks, months, years, or decades. What is critical is identifying the appropriate environmental safeguards early and building them in as the project progresses. Airports have proven effective in accomplishing that goal, and we are proud of the airport communities' effort to protect the environment. One need look no further than ACINA's lonely support for quieter aircraft, which we believe testifies to the ability to both enhance capacity and improve the environment.
ACINA and AAAE have developed the Expedited Airport System Enhancement (EASE) initiative to improve the environmental approval process for projects that would enhance capacity and reduce delays at the nation's busiest airports. We have worked with numerous environmental, airport planning, and development professionals, key Federal Aviation Administration staff, as well as environmental and aviation law experts. Our goal is to expedite the time it takes federal and state regulators and environmental agencies to review and approve critical airport projects.
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The EASE initiative that we have developed would give priority to critical airport capacity projects within the scope of existing environmental laws and better integrate application of those laws into the process for approving such projects. I can't stress enough that project acceleration does not need to come at the expense of environmental progress.
Completing airport capacity projects in a reasonable amount of time saves money, improves airline service and does nothing to harm the environment. Simply put, funding and completing runway projects is the single most effective measure to improve system reliability. A more detailed description of our EASE proposal follows my remarks.
Although the cornerstone of any successful plan to reduce airline delays in the long-term must include a commitment to increase airport capacity by building new runways, we realize that there are other actions that should be considered to help reduce airline delays and cancellations. During a recent hearing on capacity, Ranking Member Oberstar said, ''as we look to solutions to the problem of congestion, we must recognize that building more infrastructure is an important part of the answer, but it cannot be the only answer.'' I completely agree with that assessment.
For instance, modernizing the National Aviation System and making structural improvements in air traffic control are critical to enhancing efficiency and capacity throughout the aviation system. Demonstrations at several airports have confirmed the benefit of early deployment of the Aircraft Vortex Spacing System (AVOSS), the Local Area Augmentation System (LAAS), and the Automatic Dependent SurveillanceBroadcast (ADSB). The Critical Free Flight Phase I and Phase 2 programs could also improve overall system capacity. With continued support from this Subcommittee, I hope the FAA will expedite the deployment of these and other technology initiatives that will improve airport capacity.
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Mr. Chairman, we also need to provide the airports with greater ability to appropriately price their services. The release of the FAA's capacity benchmarks will likely prompt further debate on whether demand management tools should be used to help reduce flight delays in the short-and medium-terms. These tools include a variety of non-market options including slot lotteries, administrative slot limitations and airline scheduling committees.
There are also market-based actions such as peak-hour pricing on aircraft landing fees, congestion pricing for those airports that don't have off-peak capacity, and slot auctions. These are more likely to result in a balance of supply and demand and can be used to incorporate important public goals such as the protection of service to small communities and the enhancement of airline competition.
Mr. Chairman, I know you, Tanking Member Lipinski, Chairman Young and Ranking Member Oberstar support the idea of granting airlines limited antitrust exemption so airline representatives can discuss cooperative scheduling arrangements to reduce overscheduling and flight delays during hours of peak operations. Although I would argue that giving blanket anti-trust immunity to airlines may not be the most effective way to reduce delays at our nation's airports in a competitive market system, I do think there are times when granting airlines limited anti-trust immunity may be an excellent idea.
For instance, when severe weather causes massive disruptions at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, it could be very beneficial for officials from American Airlines, United Airlines and the other carriers that operate at the airport to be able to coordinate their schedules to recover from cancellations for that day. Giving the airlines limited antitrust immunity in periods of severe weather or other temporary hub disruptions could allow them to work out scheduling and cancellation arrangements that would minimize the impact that flight delays and cancellations are having on passengers. Such ''emergency'' antitrust immunity could be triggered by the FAA and would be a sensible, problem-solving mechanism for aviation's network system.
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As airports, airlines, the FAA and Members of Congress debate whether demand management tools should be used to help reduce flight delays in the short-and mediumthere are a few points I would like to make. First, airports currently do not have the authority they need to charge aircraft to land at airports in a way that addresses market demand. Some existing policies would need to be changed before airports could implement a full range of peak-hour pricing or congestion pricing proposals being discussed.
Second, whatever demand strategy may be necessary in the short-term, we need to carefully consider the needs of small communities and the potential negative impact that scheduling committees and other demand management tools could have on new entrants and service to small communities. Many of our members have expressed fear that if demand is restricted at congested airports, service to smaller communities on smaller aircraft will be the first to be eliminated. They also argue that small communities do not have enough air service now and that non-market based management tools could make the situation even worse.
Third, we should realize that limiting our aviation capacity has the potential to limit our economy at a time when Congress, the Administration and the Federal Reserve Board are doing everything they can to keep our economy strong. As DOT Secretary Norm Mineta. pointed out during a recent hearing before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, ''Congestion in U.S. transportation is a challenge that faces every American, simply because the vitality of the U.S. economy is so closely linked to an efficient transportation system.''
I believe allocation tools that consider constrained airport's service priorities, airport efficiency, new entrant opportunities in city-pair markets, and small community access needs are best for addressing the capacity problem in ways that are least disruptive to the current system. The long-term answer is to increase capacity by building new runways. In the meantime, we need to find ways in the short- and medium-terms that reduce delays and cancellations but don't have a disproportionate, negative impact on new entrants, service to small communities, and our economy.
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Each of the market-based options and non-market options that I mentioned has their pros and cons. Moreover, each airport is different so we should turn away from one-size fits all strategies and let airports and communities define what works best and where to limit demand in the interim. Airports working with the communities and the FAA are in the best position to manage their resources. The example of LaGuardia International Airport is instructive. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has worked collaboratively with the FAA both on the lottery to deal with the post-AIR21 operating environment and a longer-term solution due this September.
The airport community stands ready to work with the Subcommittee to improve the performance of the aviation system. The FAA is in the best position to understand the limitations and the available capacity of the Air Traffic Control System. Individual 12 airlines are in the best position to adjust their schedules once availability is made clear. Similar to LaGuardia, individual airports are best situated to develop appropriate tools and lead a collaborative effort aimed at allocating space for flights.
Before I conclude, I would like to thank Administrator Garvey and the FAA for developing the capacity benchmarks. They will help all us to better understand the capabilities of our aviation system. People may disagree on the best way to reduce delays in the short-and medium-terms. But I hope we can all agree that demand management tools should not obscure the reality that the real answer is building new capacity to meet increased demand. The FAA's capacity benchmarks make the point that airports have been trying to make for years: in many places constructing new runways will ensure that the national aviation systemand our economy that depends on itwill continue to grow and prosper.
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Chairman Mica, Ranking Member Lipinski, and members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation, thank you for inviting me to participate in today's hearing on the Federal Aviation Administration's capacity benchmarks. All of us at ACINA and AAAE look forward to working with you during the 107th Congress as you consider ways to reduce airline delays and increase airport capacity.
EXPEDITED AIRPORT SYSTEM ENHANCEMENT (EASE) INITIATIVE
Where we stand
It is widely acknowledged that air transportation has become a vital part of our way of life. It eases travel within our country and throughout the world. It's continued ability to grow is critical to our national prosperity and well being. For that growth to continue, we must be able to continue to make substantial improvements to our airports.
In recent years, this country has done a much more effective job of dealing with our environmental challenges. Our water and air are cleaner, but we have a long way to go. As we continue to correct for lapses of the past, our nation is much more attentive to environmental sustainability in planning and executing new projects.
Airports around the country have been leaders in putting in place environmental safeguards and engineering solutions that respond to these environmental imperatives. Most major airports now employ environmental specialists to craft environmentally sensitive project solutions.
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In the past five years, airports have spent countless dollars to insure that aviation improvements also further the cause of environmental progress.
The need for aviation infrastructure improvements is fundamentally compatible with the need for environmental progress. What is not compatible is the stark contrast between the urgent need to produce aviation infrastructure improvements and the traditionally slow pace of identifying the environmental safeguards that need to accompany these improvements.
It is true that in years past, when the environmental safeguards were in a Research and Development phase of their evolution, the long time frames may have been needed for us to feel our way. Still further back in time, the same was true on the hard engineering side of these same projects. However, the science associated both with the hard engineering and with the environmental safeguards has now matured to the point where decisions on both can be made more rapidly on the basis of now-ample experience.
From the standpoint of water and air quality, noise, and dozens of other environmental concerns that help to define the end product, it matters little whether the process of moving the project forward takes weeks, months, years, or decades. The important thing is to get the appropriate environmental safeguards identified early and built in as the project progresses. Slow decision-making does not translate into better environmental results.
The interests of our aviation system are best served by accelerating the pace at which delay-reducing projects are moved forward. Such acceleration need not occasion one iota of relaxation of our national agenda of environmental progress. While those who are particularly attuned to the environmental concerns will doubtless be concerned that we can not advance one cause without harming the other, we are prepared to meet these concerns head-on and to recognize that only actual experience can bring the comfort some would seek.
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What we are not prepared to accommodate are those who, hiding in the shadows of important and legitimate environmental concerns, are really intent only on stopping needed aviation projects from proceeding.
With flight delays and growing concern over system gridlock, it has never been more important to ensure the efficiency and effectiveness of the airport project review process.
AAAE and ACINA have developed proposals to improve the environmental approval process for projects that would enhance capacity and reduce delays at the nation's busiest airports. We have worked with environmental, airport planning and development professionals, key FAA staff, ACI-NA environmental and governmental affairs steering groups as well as environmental and aviation law experts. Our goal is to expedite the process by which airport operators, federal and state regulators and environmental agencies review and approve critical airport projects.
The Expedited Airport System Enhancement (EASE) initiative would give priority to critical national airport capacity projects within the scope of existing environmental laws and better integrate application of those laws into the process for approving such projects. EASE also seeks to improve procedures at FAA and elsewhere in the federal government to make sure that these critical projects receive prompt and informed attention.
Page 120 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCEASE PROPOSAL
Note: All of these proposed measures would be limited to ''Critical National Airport Capacity Projects'' at a small number of specifically designated airports where delays have serious impacts on the national air transportation system. They would not change the environmental review process or any other laws or procedures with respect to other projects or other airports.
Declaration of ''Critical National Airport Capacity'' Projects
Proposal. FAA shall establish a threshold of total annual hours of delay at the most delay-prone airports. Upon application by the sponsor of an airport having greater than the threshold amount of delay established by FAA, the Administrator shall designate the project at that airport as a Critical National Airport Capacity Project. In legislation, Congress would determine that, at such airports there is no alternative to a Critical National Airport Capacity Project that is consistent with the needs of the national air transportation system; and, Congress shall declare that no alternative other than a project at that same airport that contemporaneously produces equal or greater capacity is reasonable, prudent, feasible or possible for purposes of the Airport and Airways Improvement Act and federal environmental review laws.
The legislation would mandate that the FAA and all other federal agencies would be required to accept that finding as conclusive. Airports would be included only with their consent and could subsequently opt out of the designation.
Explanation. Under existing laws, the FAA and other agencies must determine whether a reasonable alternative exists to a proposed capacity project. This part of the Alternatives Analysis consumes time, money, and effort even when there is no reasonable alternative. The effect of a Congressional declaration would be to avoid the delay caused by consideration of off-airport alternatives. This proposal, if enacted, would be a legislative determination that these other off-airport alternatives cannot possibly solve the nation's airport capacity problems. A side benefit would be to focus analysis on ways to minimize potential adverse environmental impacts through project design and mitigation. It is estimated that approximately 1015 airport projects would qualify for designation as Critical National Airport Capacity Projects.
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Priority processing by all agencies of critical airport capacity projects
Proposal. Require by law or executive order that FAA and all other agencies conduct environmental reviews of Critical National Airport Capacity Projects on a ''highest priority'' basis.
Explanation. Much of the delay in environmental processing occurs outside the FAA, at other agencies. Although proper review by those agencies may take some time, this proposal would ensure that no additional time is lost while the proposal awaits the agencies' attention. The Executive Order implementing this initiative would compel the agencies to provide adequate staffing and funding to insure compliance with the existing CEQ-established deadlines.
Airspace system capacity enhancement Council/Czar
Proposal. Create a Council/Czar appointed by and reporting directly to the President to coordinate review of federal agency actions as they affect capacity enhancement and environmental review.
Explanation. The Council/Czar would be responsible for examining and addressing any aspect of the system that impedes the volume of air traffic. It could be granted the authority to exempt projects from environmental and other regulations that are unnecessarily hindering capacity enhancement; or, the Council/Czar could simply facilitate coordination with the Secretaries of Transportation, Interior, Commerce, State and Defense, as well as with the Administrator of EPA, with the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality and with the Governors. It is important, however, that such a Council not be simply another level of review, with boxes to be checked, and reviewers to be staffed.
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Airport funding of project-specific additional FAA staff or consultants for expedited review of Critical Airport Capacity Projects
Proposal. By law, executive order, or FAA action, allow airports to provide funds to FAA to hire additional, project-specific staff to supervise and implement reviews of Critical National Airport Capacity Projects. The additional staff would work exclusively under FAA's supervision and would have no obligation to the airport.
Explanation. FAA faces serious resource limitations with environmental processing. This proposal would allow the addition of staff for the most difficult and critical projects without increasing FAA's permanent headcount. This is solely a funding mechanism to allow the airports (and through them, the airports' users) to pay the cost of accelerating project reviews.
Categorical exclusions expansion
Proposal. By law, executive order, or FAA action, direct FAA to institute national procedures for excluding specific airport project actions from NEPA review.
Explanation. Categorical exclusions, as currently outlined in FAA Order 5050.4, constitute a successful FAA review tool that ensures compliance with environmental regulations while expediting agency review. Many, if not most major airport projects, receive approval for categorically excluded elements of the project. While extraordinary circumstances and controversy can and do prevent a specific project category from being universally excluded, apron expansions, taxiway expansions, and other capacity enhancing project elements are customarily approved. Legislative expansion would formalize consistent application of NEPA that allows specific categories of a project to be excluded from review based on historical impact findings.
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Facilitation of agreements with local governments to allow additional mitigation for Critical Airport Capacity Projects
Proposal. Legislation which would allow directed interpretations of policies on revenue diversion and use of passenger facility charges, noise and access restrictions for Critical National Airport Capacity Projects to improve mitigation of environmental impacts. Encourage FAA to agree to enforceable limits on new runways, where necessary, to ensure timely approval of Critical National Airport Capacity Projects.
Local airport funds could be used to reach practical mitigation agreements with nearby communities, even if not traditionally permitted under existing rules on revenue diversion and PFC use. This would be tightly controlled to prevent local governments from holding projects hostage until a ''ransom'' unrelated to the project impacts is paid. There should be a nexus between the to-be-funded project and the airport runway (Note: the implementing statute would acknowledge that these local communities bear a significant impact on the national need for aviation capacity and therefore, this unique exception for the ''revenue diversion'' restriction may be justified. This cannot be cited as a precedent for non-critical airport capacity projects).
FAA would be directed to make binding commitments with respect to air space management, runway use, or other operational conditions for Critical National Airport Capacity Projects, where reasonable, and subject to findings that the limitations do not substantially interfere with air traffic efficiency and safety.
Page 124 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC FAA would be authorized to approve noise or access restrictions on use of a new runway which is designated as a Critical National Airport Capacity Project without further compliance with the procedures under the Airport Noise and Capacity Act (ANCA), where such restrictions are fully evaluated in the EIS for capacity improvement, costs and benefits, preservation of at least the existing level of access, where the projects are deemed necessary to avoid delay in project approval/construction and authorized in the Record of Decision.
Explanation. Agreements with local governments surrounding an airport can remove or reduce opposition to a project, saving time and reducing the risk that the project will not be approved. However, those agreements sometimes require funding for purposes not currently approved for use of airport revenues, either because of the application of anti-diversion rules or limits on PFC eligibility. The expansion of mitigation would be limited, to preclude payment of cash bounties or funding of unrelated development that a community desires. Rather, the new authority would cover only costs of reasonable, project-related impacts (as determined by FAA), that go beyond current funding standards. Such expanded funding could include, for example, mitigation of traffic impacts on nearby, nonexclusive airport access roads or repairing building code deficiencies that would otherwise make soundproofing schools or homes ineligible for federal funding.
Some projects would be easier and faster to build if communities could be assured that use of the new runway will be consistent with the assumptions built into the environmental processing (for example, time-of-day and directional limitations, limits on use for departures) but FAA historically has not been willing to give such commitments. Similarly, for those restrictions that might, theoretically, be achievable through an ANCA/Part 161 process, that process may cause added, redundant delay through review of the restriction. FAA has been unwilling to approve any actions under Part 161. In essence, the proposals relating to potential restrictions on new runway use recognize that it may be better to obtain, in a timely manner, a capacity benefit that may be less than a project's full physical capacity, rather than to hold out for an unrestricted project that may be inordinately delayed or never achieved.
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Require realistic State Air Quality Implementation Plans
Proposal. Require State Implementation Plan (SIP) inventories to be revised within 180 days of enactment of legislation to base air quality emissions inventories at airports having Critical National Airport Capacity Projects upon FAA's Terminal Area Forecast for that airport, or an alternate forecast approved by FAA.
Explanation. If a region does not meet national ambient air quality standards, the state is required to prepare a state implementation plan (SIP), that regulates emission sources. The Clean Air Act prohibits FAA from approving an airport project if it will interfere with the SIP. If the SIP already includes an allowance for the project, this process is simple and causes no delay. If the SIP does not include such an allowance, months or years can be lost collecting and analyzing data, and negotiating with air quality agencies. Many SIPS contain unrealistically low airport emissions budgets, and few realistically anticipate reasonable airport growth. Mandatory SIP revisions that realistically account for airport activity would eliminate this major source of delay and risk.
Eliminate requirement under 49 USC 47106(c)(1)(B) for Governor's Certificate
Proposal. Eliminate, in its entirety, the requirement that each state certify that federally funded airport projects comply with applicable air and water quality standards.
Explanation. This certificate requirement, contained in the Airport and Airway Improvement Act, duplicates existing compliance and conformity rules under the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act.
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